Aerospace Engineering Seminars

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AE590 Seminar: What can animals teach us about aerodynamics?

Event Type
Department of Aerospace Engineering
CIF 2035
Apr 10, 2023   4:00 - 5:00 pm  
Kenneth Breuer, Professor of Engineering, Brown University
Courtney McLearin

Who amongst us has not marveled at flight in nature? While humans have been flying for barely 100 years, insects, birds and bats have ruled the air for over 300 million years, and we are just beginning to understand some of the secrets that have enabled them to fly with such elegance, economy, and agility.  In this talk I will outline some of the work in my lab on animal flight and bio-inspired aerodynamic design.  I will describe on our experiments characterizing, modelling and emulating bat, bird and insect flight.  I will focus firstly on how insects and bats exploit and control their flexible bodies and wings to enhance their flight performance and secondly on the benefits of group flight in birds.

About the speaker:
Kenny Breuer received his Sc.B. from Brown University in Mechanical Engineering (1982) and his Ph.D. from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1988). He spent two years back at Brown as a Post Doctoral Fellow in Applied Mathematics and nine years on the faculty at MIT, before finally returning to Brown in 1999, where he is currently Professor of Engineering. In 2010 he received a courtesy appointment as Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology. From 2011 to 2014 he served as Senior Associate Dean of Engineering for Academic Programs.

Professor Breuer’s research interests are in the broad field of Fluid Dynamics and cover a wide range of diverse topics. At the macro-scale, he has worked on the mechanics of animal flight, the formation, growth and unsteady dynamics of vortical flows, flow interactions with highly compliant structures such as membrane wings and spring-mounted wings, and energy harvesting from fluid flows.   At the micron-scale, he was a pioneer in the mechanics of bacterial motility and flagellar mechanics, the nanoscale flow near a moving contact line and in the development of nanoscale velocimetry techniques. With his students and collaborators, he has co-authored over one hundred peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, review articles and book chapters. He is the editor of Microscale Diagnostic Techniques (2004).

Professor Breuer has also been active in fluid dynamics education and outreach, He is a co-author on the best-selling DVD: Multimedia Fluid Mechanics (Camb. Univ. Press), and co-editor of the compilation: A Gallery of Fluid Motion (Camb. Univ. Press). He has also appeared on programs such as PBS’s NOVA (Bat superpowers, 2021; The four-winged dinosaur, 2008), NPR’s Science Friday, the Discovery Channel’s series Weird Connections, and the BBC’s series Invisible Worlds. His research has been features in popular press such as the New York Times, Discover magazine and has been highlighted on the website of the National Science Foundation.

Professor Breuer has received a number of honors and awards including Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2013), Fellow of the American Physical Society (2010), Associate Fellow if the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (2013), Chair of the APS-Division of Fluid Dynamics (2012), National Merit Scholar (1978), ONR Graduate Fellowship (1982-7). He was selected as the Midwest Mechanics lecturer in 2008, and was the Paris Sciences Professor at ESPCI in 2015.

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