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Keywords:

  • aerodynamics;
  • airflow;
  • feather;
  • flight;
  • serration;
  • transition

Abstract

Barn owl feathers at the leading edge of the wing are equipped with comb-like structures termed serrations on their outer vanes. Each serration is formed by one barb ending that separates and bends upwards. This structure is considered to play a role in air-flow control and noise reduction during flight. Hence, it has considerable potential for engineering applications, particularly in the aviation industry. Several publications have reported possible functions of serrations at artificial airfoils. However, only crude approximations of natural serrations have so far been investigated. We refer to these attempts as zero-order approximations of serrations. It was the goal of this study to present a quantitative three-dimensional characterization of natural serrations as first-order approximations (mean values) and second-order approximations (listed differences depending on the position of the serration along the leading edge). Confocal laser scanning microscopy was used for a three-dimensional reconstruction and investigation with high spatial resolution. Each serration was defined by its length, profile geometry and curvature. Furthermore, the orientation of the serrations at the leading edge was characterized by the inclination angle, the tilt angle and the separation distance of neighboring serrations. These data are discussed with respect to possible applications of serration-like structures for noise suppression and air-flow control.