Differential pressure distribution measurement with an MEMS sensor on a free-flying butterfly wing

Hidetoshi Takahashi, Hiroto Tanaka, Kiyoshi Matsumoto, Isao Shimoyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


An insect can perform various flight maneuvers. However, the aerodynamic force generated by real insect wings during free flight has never been measured directly. In this study, we present the direct measurement of the four points of the differential pressures acting on the wing surface of a flying insect. A small-scale differential pressure sensor of 1.0mm × 1.0mm× 0.3mm in size was developed using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and was attached to a butterfly wing. Total weight of the sensor chip and the flexible electrode on the wing was 4.5mg, which was less than 10% of the wing weight. Four points on the wing were chosen as measurement points, and one sensor chip was attached in each flight experiment. During takeoff, the wing's flapping motion induced a periodic and symmetric differential pressure between upstroke and downstroke. The average absolute value of the local differential pressure differed significantly with the location: 7.4 Pa at the forewing tip, 5.5 Pa at the forewing center, 2.1 Pa at the forewing root and 2.1 Pa at the hindwing center. The instantaneous pressure at the forewing tip reached 10 Pa, which was ten times larger than wing loading of the butterfly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number036020
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Sept
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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