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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 8;102(6):1829-34. Epub 2005 Jan 31.

Fluid-flow-induced flutter of a flag.

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Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Pierce Hall, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


We give an explanation for the onset of fluid-flow-induced flutter in a flag. Our theory accounts for the various physical mechanisms at work: the finite length and the small but finite bending stiffness of the flag, the unsteadiness of the flow, the added mass effect, and vortex shedding from the trailing edge. Our analysis allows us to predict a critical speed for the onset of flapping as well as the frequency of flapping. We find that in a particular limit corresponding to a low-density fluid flowing over a soft high-density flag, the flapping instability is akin to a resonance between the mode of oscillation of a rigid pivoted airfoil in a flow and a hinged-free elastic plate vibrating in its lowest mode.

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