Side-by-side propulsors show high thrust and efficiency when tuned properly

When fish swim in a school, they interact hydrodynamically with one another. We explored these interactions by testing two rigid pitching airfoils side-by-side in a water channel. We found that together, the airfoils can produce more thrust than their solo thrusts combined, and they can be more efficient. Whether or not thrust or efficiency is optimized depends on the phase lag between their motions. (This work is from PI Quinn’s research prior to the SFS Lab and is archived here for reference.)

Authors: Peter Dewey, Daniel Quinn, Birgitt Boschitsch, Alexander Smits

Abstract: Experimental and analytical results are presented on two identical bio-inspired hydro- foils oscillating in a side-by-side configuration. The time-averaged thrust production and power input to the fluid are found to depend on both the oscillation phase differential and the transverse spacing between the foils. For in-phase oscillations, the foils exhibit an enhanced propulsive efficiency at the cost of a reduction in thrust. For out-of-phase oscillations, the foils exhibit enhanced thrust with no observable change in the propulsive efficiency. For oscillations at intermediate phase differentials, one of the foils experiences a thrust and efficiency enhancement while the other experiences a reduction in thrust and efficiency. Flow visualizations reveal how the wake interactions lead to the variations in propulsive performance. Vortices shed into the wake from the tandem foils form vortex pairs rather than vortex streets. For in-phase oscillation, the vortex pairs induce a momentum jet that angles towards the centerplane between the foils, while out-of-phase oscillations produce vortex pairs that angle away from the centerplane between the foils.

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