About Us

Our mission is to inspire new technology at the boundary between Fluid Mechanics and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). Think autonomous swimming robots or implantable body flow sensors. We are part of the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department, the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, and the Link Lab at the University of Virginia. Our current research is focused on 1) fish-like robots, 2) microscale quadrotors, and 3) body flow sensors. We’re working on ways that fluid modeling can improve the effectiveness of these devices and better integrate them into a smart and connected world. Scroll down to learn more about us and our research.

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Recent Publications

Towards breath sensors that are self-powered by design

Bio-sensors implanted in the body are revolutionizing healthcare. How to power these sensors is an open challenge. One promising option is to harvest small amounts of energy from the body itself, effectively making the sensor self-powered. We derived and tested a model for a self-powered sensing in a human airway, where measuring subtle changes in breathing could, e.g., trigger early interventions for patients with severe asthma.

Tunable stiffness in fish robotics: mechanisms and advantages

When fish-like robots tune their stiffness in realtime, they can be much more efficient. Real fish use the same strategy. In this review article, we summarize the latest work on tunable stiffness—both in the fish biology community and the bio-robotics community.

Tunable stiffness enables fast and efficient swimming in fish-like robots

Fish are thought to adjust their tail stiffness to swim efficiently over a wide range of speeds, but how they tune stiffness has been a mystery. We derived a model that combines fluid dynamics and bio-mechanics to reveal that muscle tension should scale with swimming speed squared. By applying our strategy to a fish-like robot, we were able to nearly double its efficiency.

How aspect-ratio affects near-ground swimmers

Animals and bio-inspired robots can swim/fly faster near solid surfaces like the seafloor. In the past, researchers had quantified how strong these effects were for two-dimensional airfoils. We studied how these results extend to the three-dimensional fins. We found that lowering the aspect ratio weakens the effect of the surface: thrust enhancements become less noticeable, stable equilibrium altitudes shift lower and become weaker, and wake asymmetries become less pronounced. (This work was done in collaboration with the Biofluids Research Lab at Lehigh University.)

How thrust and efficiency change if you swim near the bottom of the pool

We developed a model that estimates how thrust and efficiency change as a pitching hydrofoil gets closer to a planar boundary. Our model predicts that the modified forces are caused by an increasing amount of virtual mass and an increasingly distorted wake. We validated the model by comparing with water channel experiments and inviscid flow simulations. (This work was done in collaboration with the Biofluids Research Lab at Lehigh University.)