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Engineering professors get Air Force research grant

Jan. 4, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Two Western Michigan University faculty members, Dr. Tianshu Liu, associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, and Dr. William Liou, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, have been awarded a three-year, $470,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to study the natural flying capabilities of birds and insects.

The primary purpose of this project is to replicate the way these flyers use their wing flexibility to effectively control airflow. In the past, such studies have been considered too complicated and dangerous because of the unsteady aerodynamics involved. Liu's research adds a new dimension, introducing a flexible, sensor-embedded extension to the trailing edge of the plane's wing. The extension has the ability to sense and react to changes in the surroundings.

"Natural flyers like birds and insects utilize their wing flexibility, particularly at the trailing edges, for effective flow control in different flight regimes," Liu says. "Our research, which is inspired by these natural flyers, will help to design more efficient air vehicles using flexible trailing edges."

Liu, who specializes in aerodynamics, secured the grant and is serving as principal investigator. Liou will deal primarily with computational fluid dynamics issues associated with the addition of a flexible trailing edge. The two are coordinating their efforts with Qamar Shams at the NASA Langley Research Center.

Liu, who came to WMU in 2004, serves as director of the Applied Aerodynamics Laboratory and advisor for the student chapter of the Society of Flight Test Engineers. Liou came to WMU in 1997 and directs its Center for Advanced Vehicle Design and Simulation.

AFOSR supports the U.S. Air Force's goals of control and maximum utilization of air and space by leading and managing its basic research program. AFOSR invests in basic research efforts and interfaces with industry, the academic community, and others involved in applied and developmental research.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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