Seal whiskers have been found to produce unique wake flow structures that minimize self-induced vibration and reduce drag. The cause of these wake features are due to the peculiar three-dimensional morphology of the whisker surface. The whisker morphology can be described as an elliptical cross section with variation of diameter in the major and minor axis along the length and, angle of incidence, rotation of the elliptical plane with respect to the whisker axis, α at the peak and β at the trough. This research provided a more complete morphology characterization accomplished through CT scanning and analysis of 27 harbor and elephant seal whisker samples. The results of this study confirmed previously reported values and added a characterization of the angle of incidence finding that the majority of angles observed fall within ±5° and exhibit a random variation in magnitude and direction along the whisker length.
While the wake effects of several parameters of the whisker morphology have been studied, the effect of the angle of incidence has not been well understood. This research examined the influence of the angle of incidence on the wake flow structure through series of water channel studies. Four models of whisker-like geometries based on the morphology study were tested which isolate the angle of incidence as the only variation between models. The model variations in angle of incidence selected provided a baseline case (α = β = 0°), captured the range of angles observed in nature (α = β = -5°, and α = β = -15°), and investigated the influence of direction of angle of incidence (α = -5°, β = -5°). The wake structure for each seal whisker model was measured through particle image velocimetry (PIV). Angle of incidence was found to influence the wake structure through reorganization of velocity field patterns, reduction of recovery length and modification of magnitude of Tu. The results of this research helped provide a more complete understanding of the seal whisker morphology relationship to wake structure and can provide insight into design practices for application of whisker-like geometry to various engineering problems.