Research

Flapping Flags

The flapping of flexible objects like flags have long fascinated mankind. The figure above from Shelley and Zhang 2011 shows several possible flapping states.  In (a) a thread immersed in a running soap film displays the standard von Karman vortex street of shed vortices in its wake. Parts (b) and © show the thread in coherent flapping motion; (b) shows an snapshot of the flapping thread in the soap film whereas © is a timelapse of the thread showing its full range of motion.  Image (d) shows the effects of a higher flow speed–the flapping motion becomes aperiodic. Image (e) shows a stiff metal wire bent into the shape of a flapping filament; note the strong boundary layer separation around the wire compared to the thread in Image (b). As one might expect, the drag on the unflapping wire is significantly greater than the drag on the flapping thread. (Image credit: M. Shelley and J. Zhang, Shelley and Zhang 2011)

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