Department: Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Research Institute Affiliation: Graduate Program in Materials Science and Engineering
Faculty Advisor(s): Marc A. Meyers

Primary Student
Name: Tarah Naoe Sullivan
Email: tnsulliv@ucsd.edu
Phone: 808-284-6725
Grad Year: 2017

The perfection of avian flight is due to millions of years of evolution resulting in the highly specialized structures that we observe today. Lightweight bones and beaks are crucial to a bird's ability to fly, and have been investigated, but the feather has been overlooked and oversimplified; until recently. Feathers have hierarchical features that allow them to be lightweight, flexible, strong, and spring-like, enabling a bird's ability to fly. The feather can be divided into the rachis (central shaft) and the feather vane, which consists of barbs (beams that branch from the rachis) and barbules (minute beams that close the gap between barbs). Neighboring barbs adhere to each other via the Velcro-like barbule connections to form a "zipped" feather vane. This "zipped" vane traps air to allow for lift, but "unzips" and lets air through when forces become dangerously large. This mechanism allows for failure prevention in the feather. The focus of our research is to better understand the structure of the feather vane in order to create a synthetic feather-inspired material for use in adhesives and aircraft components. We begin our investigation by measuring the flexural properties of the feather barb and compare the bending of "zipped" and "un-zipped" feather barbs under multiple loading cycles. A mechanical model is used to analyze the complex structure of a feather barb in bending. The optimal properties and load distribution between the feather barbs are determined by finite element analysis. Results show that the "zipped" feather barbs were more damage resistant than the "un-zipped" feather barbs. This is due to reinforcement from neighboring barbs resulting in less barb rotation when bending. We would like to acknowledge the AFOSR MURI (AFOSR-FA9550-15-1-0009) for support of our research.

Industry Application Area(s)
Aerospace, Defense, Security | Materials

« Back to Posters or Search Results

Contact:   researchexpo@soe.ucsd.edu   (858) 534-6068