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Interaction of barn owl leading edge serrations with freestream turbulence

Midmer, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-3288-0597, Brücker, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-5834-3020, Weger, M. , Wagner, H. & Bleckmann, H. (2024). Interaction of barn owl leading edge serrations with freestream turbulence. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 19(3), article number 036014. doi: 10.1088/1748-3190/ad3a4f


The silent flight of barn owls is associated with wing and feather specialisations. Three special features are known: a serrated leading edge that is formed by free-standing barb tips which appears as a comb-like structure, a soft dorsal surface, and a fringed trailing edge. We used a model of the leading edge comb with 3D-curved serrations that was designed based on 3D micro-scans of rows of barbs from selected barn-owl feathers. The interaction of the flow with the serrations was measured with Particle-Image-Velocimetry in a flow channel at uniform steady inflow and was compared to the situation of inflow with freestream turbulence, generated from the turbulent wake of a cylinder placed upstream. In steady uniform flow, the serrations caused regular velocity streaks and a flow turning effect. When vortices of different size impacted the serrations, the serrations reduced the flow fluctuations downstream in each case, exemplified by a decreased root-mean-square value of the fluctuations in the wake of the serrations. This attenuation effect was stronger for the spanwise velocity component, leading to an overall flow homogenization. Our findings suggest that the serrations of the barn owl provide a passive flow control leading to reduced leading-edge noise when flying in turbulent environments.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the Accepted Manuscript version of an article accepted for publication in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. IOP Publishing Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions in this version of the manuscript or any version derived from it. The Version of Record is available online at
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QL Zoology
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Departments: School of Science & Technology
School of Science & Technology > Engineering
SWORD Depositor:
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