The Physics of Airfoil shapes on Birds and Cars

Racing and Flying with Airfoils

By. Shelaan



The airfoil shape allows birds to fly through the air, cars to speed down the road, and planes to soar through the sky. The shape of airfoils was taken from birds but were not actually drawn until 1884, when Horatio Phillips drew the first curved shape of an airfoil.



Racing with The Physics of Airfoils


According to Bernoulli's principle that says a fluid's velocity increases as its pressure decreases. This is how the airfoil shape comes into play. The longer the distance on the top of the object the higher the velocity, and on the bottom a lower velocity over a lesser distance.This is why race cars are shaped like airfoils. This allows them to go faster. On vecical there are four major forces. lift (up), weight (down), drag (back), and thrust (forward).On a car you do not want the weight to be much less then the lift to the point that the car becomes airbourne. But the lift all depends on the speed of the vehicle. So if your car is meant for higher speeds and is shaped like an airfoil, then a spoiler is placed on the back to make the car slow down with drag. Bernoulli's principle already told us how the airfoil shape allows a car to speed down the road, and now in this diagram above shows us how the wing of a bird allows it to fly. The high speed or velocity on top and the low speed or velocity on the bottom. Because pressure and velocity are indirectly related; the higher the velocity the lower the pressure.

Soaring Birds or soaring Airfoils?



Birds find a special balance that allows them to fly. They need to make a lift greater then their weight, while at the same time, like cars, get a slight drag to slow down their thrust. If birds to not perfectly balance themsleves like cars the consecquences could be disasterous. Birds unlike cars can change the shape of their airfoil. When they land they tilt their wings up to cause a drag, which slows them down. When they take off they tilt their wings up which causes a greater thrust so they can take off and fly. The idea of cars came from the shape of bird's wings. The birds wing allows drag as well as thrust and lift. Even birds flying through the air need physics to take off from the ground as well as land.

Vocabulary of Physics

Drag: This is the force that slows down the firction in the air.
Thrust: this is the force that allows an object to move forwards.
Weight: This is the force that pushes down on the object because of the force of gravity.
Lift: this is the force that allows the object to fly.
Bernoulli's principle: a fluid's velocity increases its pressure decreases


Related Links

Name of Websites
Explains the forces of flight in birds and cars
Explains the different shape of wings and effects
Explains the birds wings and how they work
Explains Bernoulli's principal using mainly diagrams