Aquatic manoeuvering with counter-propagating waves: a novel locomotive strategy.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface (Impact Factor: 4.91). 12/2010; 8(60):1041-50. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2010.0493
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Many aquatic organisms swim by means of an undulating fin. These undulations often form a single wave travelling from one end of the fin to the other. However, when these aquatic animals are holding station or hovering, there is often a travelling wave from the head to the tail, and another moving from the tail to the head, meeting in the middle of the fin. Our study uses a biomimetic fish robot and computational fluid dynamics on a model of a real fish to uncover the mechanics of these inward counter-propagating waves. In addition, we compare the flow structure and upward force generated by inward counter-propagating waves to standing waves, unidirectional waves, and outward counter-propagating waves (i.e. one wave travelling from the middle of the fin to the head, and another wave travelling from the middle of the fin to the tail). Using digital particle image velocimetry to capture the flow structure around the fish robot, and computational fluid dynamics, we show that inward counter-propagating waves generate a clear mushroom-cloud-like flow structure with an inverted jet. The two streams of fluid set up by the two travelling waves 'collide' together (forming the mushroom cap) and collect into a narrow jet away from the cap (the mushroom stem). The reaction force from this jet acts to push the body in the opposite direction to the jet, perpendicular to the direction of movement provided by a single travelling wave. This downward jet provides a substantial increase in the perpendicular force when compared with the other types of fin actuation. Animals can thereby move upward if the fin is along the bottom midline of the body (or downward if on top); or left-right if the fins are along the lateral margins. In addition to illuminating how a large number of undulatory swimmers can use elongated fins to move in unexpected directions, the phenomenon of counter-propagating waves provides novel motion capabilities for systems using robotic undulators, an emerging technology for propelling underwater vehicles.

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    ABSTRACT: Studies of center of mass (COM) motion are fundamental to understanding the dynamics of animal movement, and have been carried out extensively for terrestrial and aerial locomotion. But despite a large amount of literature describing different body movement patterns in fishes, analyses of how the center of mass moves during undulatory propulsion are not available. These data would be valuable for understanding the dynamics of different body movement patterns and the effect of differing body shapes on locomotor force production. In the present study, we analyzed the magnitude and frequency components of COM motion in three dimensions (x: surge, y: sway, z: heave) in three fish species (eel, bluegill sunfish, and clown knifefish) swimming with four locomotor modes at three speeds using high-speed video, and used an image cross-correlation technique to estimate COM motion, thus enabling untethered and unrestrained locomotion. Anguilliform swimming by eels shows reduced COM surge oscillation magnitude relative to carangiform swimming, but not compared to knifefish using a gymnotiform locomotor style. Labriform swimming (bluegill at 0.5 body lengths/s) displays reduced COM sway oscillation relative to swimming in a carangiform style at higher speeds. Oscillation frequency of the COM in the surge direction occurs at twice the tail beat frequency for carangiform and anguilliform swimming, but at the same frequency as the tail beat for gymnotiform locomotion in clown knifefish. Scaling analysis of COM heave oscillation for terrestrial locomotion suggests that COM heave motion scales with positive allometry, and that fish have relatively low COM oscillations for their body size.
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