Flow speed has little impact on propulsive characteristics of oscillating foils

T. Van Buren, D. Floryan, N. Wei, A. J. Smits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Experiments are reported on the performance of a pitching and heaving two-dimensional foil in a water channel in either continuous or intermittent motion. We find that the thrust and power are independent of the mean free-stream velocity for twofold changes in the mean velocity (fourfold in the dynamic pressure) and for oscillations in the velocity up to 38% of the mean, where the oscillations are intended to mimic those of freely swimming motions where the thrust varies during the flapping cycle. We demonstrate that the correct velocity scale is not the flow velocity but the mean velocity of the trailing edge. We also find little or no impact of streamwise velocity change on the wake characteristics such as vortex organization, vortex strength, and time-averaged velocity profile development - the wake is both qualitatively and quantitatively unchanged. Our results suggest that constant velocity studies can be used to make robust conclusions about swimming performance without a need to explore the free-swimming condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number013103
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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