Author(s): Peng J, Alben S
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Abstract In nature, there exists a special group of aquatic animals which have an axisymmetric body and whose primary swimming mechanism is to use periodic body contractions to generate vortex rings in the surrounding fluid. Using jellyfish medusae as an example, this study develops a mathematical model of body kinematics of an axisymmetric swimmer and uses a computational approach to investigate the induced vortex wakes. Wake characteristics are identified for swimmers using jet propulsion and rowing, two mechanisms identified in previous studies of medusan propulsion. The parameter space of body kinematics is explored through four quantities: a measure of body shape, stroke amplitude, the ratio between body contraction duration and extension duration, and the pulsing frequency. The effects of these parameters on thrust, input power requirement and circulation production are quantified. Two metrics, cruising speed and energy cost of locomotion, are used to evaluate the propulsion performance. The study finds that a more prolate-shaped swimmer with larger stroke amplitudes is able to swim faster, but its cost of locomotion is also higher. In contrast, a more oblate-shaped swimmer with smaller stroke amplitudes uses less energy for its locomotion, but swims more slowly. Compared with symmetric strokes with equal durations of contraction and extension, faster bell contractions increase the swimming speed whereas faster bell extensions decrease it, but both require a larger energy input. This study shows that besides the well-studied correlations between medusan body shape and locomotion, stroke variables also affect the propulsion performance. It provides a framework for comparing the propulsion performance of axisymmetric swimmers based on their body kinematics when it is difficult to measure and analyze their wakes empirically. The knowledge from this study is also useful for the design of robotic swimmers that use axisymmetric body contractions for propulsion.
This article was published in Bioinspir Biomim
and referenced in Fluid Mechanics: Open Access