Elephants and Computational Fluid Dynamics

Zoology professor Warren Porter leads a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison that uses Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to simulate heat transfer and drag. No big deal you say, until you hear that the subject of his CFD simulations is an elephant!

Caedium CFD Simulation Around an ElephantCaedium CFD Simulation Around an Elephant

Porter's research team includes engineering-physics professor Riccardo Bonazza, art professor Steve Hilyard, and graduate student Peter Dudley. Together they have developed a methodology to model the heat transfer and drag around an elephant using CFD that shows good agreement with wind tunnel experiments. Porter's research focuses on the interaction between animal physiology and their environment. An animal's heat transfer characteristics are intimately linked with its food requirements in order to regulate its body temperature and ultimately determine which climates and regions favor its survival.

With his virtual test climate, thanks to CFD, Porter can now extend his research beyond elephants. Next up are rare and extinct species.