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ROAD TO RECONCILIATION
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AseanAffairs Magazine September - October 2010
CONTENT • BEYOND ASEAN 
• ASEAN BAZAAR • ASEAN TALK
ASEAN AVIATION • INSIDE OUT
• ASEAN ENERGY • OPINION
• ASEAN TRAVELLER • SAVE OUR PLANET MALYSIA

Thai Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva

Four months on in the reconciliation process Asean Affairs examines the progress and shortcomings of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s plan to bridge

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AVIATION AND BIODIVERSITY? IT’S ONLY NATURAL...

            What do Velcro, Michael Phelps’ sharkskin swimsuit and the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, have in common? The answer rests in a growing field of scientific study through which modern engineers, scientists and architects are looking not at what we can extract from the natural world but what we can learn from it... Have you ever heard of ‘biomimicry’ or biologically inspired engineering? Simply put, it’s the study and imitation of nature’s best ideas to help solve human challenges. It’s why that now famous swimsuit was able to replicate a shark’s ability to reduce friction and stay clean — properties that not only made Phelps even slicker in the water but also protects bacteria-sensitive surfaces in hospitals.

More than 30 percent of known species worldwide are currently under threat. For aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the potential loss for our planet and future generations is already disastrous, but what’s more, it also means the loss of vital sources of inspiration and innovation. In the last 40 years, technological innovation has reduced aircraft fuel burn and emissions by 70 percent and noise by 75 percent. Today, the aviation industry contributes two percent of all manmade CO2 emissions, and it continues to seek technological solutions to help reduce that impact even further – and nature might just provide the answers. 

The natural world has of course always been a source of inspiration for the aviation industry, ever since Leonardo da Vinci first started drawing planes and helicopters 500 years ago. His intriguing designs were based on continual observations of the world around him.

But can nature truly continue to inspire ideas to help shape the eco-efficient industry of the future? How? A growing number of aeronautical innovations are inspired by a vast range of natural structures, organs and materials — the tried and tested patterns in the natural world. David Hills, senior manager, Flight Physics Research of Airbus, explains:

“The structure of the surface of lotus leaves are designed to keep it clean and dry in damp humid conditions, causing rainwater to run off and take any dirt with it. Known as ‘superhydrophobicity’ or ‘the lotus effect’, these properties have inspired coatings for cabin fittings that shed water in beads, taking contaminants with them, which improves hygiene and reduces the amount of water needed.  “And in the same way that sea birds sense gust loads in the air with their beak and adjust the shape of their wing feathers to suppress lift, probes on the new Airbus A350 XWB detect gusts ahead of the wing and deploy moveable surfaces for more efficient flight.”

So what about the A380 mentioned earlier? Well, engineers had a lot to learn from the Steppe Eagle. The eagle’s wings can’t be too long or its turning circle will take it outside the thermal – a rising column of warm air about 20m wide on which it relies to soar high in the sky. The eagle’s wings perfectly balance maximum lift with minimum length. It can manipulate the feathers at the tips, curling them upwards until they are almost vertical to create a ‘winglet’, a natural adaptation that acts as a barrier against the vortex, for highly efficient flight.

A380 engineers faced almost the same problem – only this time the issue wasn’t turning inside thermals, it was turning inside airports! How could they create enough lift for the world’s largest passenger aircraft but still fit inside airports, where the size limit is 80m? If built to a conventional design, the wingspan of the A380 would have had to be about three meters longer to create the lift needed to get the fuselage into the air.

That’s because ‘wing-tip’ vortices, created by high pressure air leaks from under the wing, around the ends, mean the tips don’t provide any lift, so the wing has to be longer. But thanks to small devices known as “winglets”, which mimic the upward movement of the eagle’s feathers, the A380’s wings are just 79.8 metres – keeping them 20cm inside that all important airport limit. But in fact, the technique is so effective, that Airbus applies the same theory to all its aircraft even though they are much smaller – with the wing of an A320 being the same size as just the horizontal tail fin of the A380!..........

 

 

 

 

>>IF AIR TRAVEL DOES HOLD THE KEY TO A MORE PROSPEROUS FUTURE, PERHAPS IT IS NATURE ITSELF THAT CAN HELP AVIATION UNLOCK AND SHARE THE BENEFITS OF BOTH A MORE CONNECTED AND SUSTAINABLE WORLD.<<
Airbus A380 winglets, inspired by the Steppe Eagle


 
    

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