Thrust production by a mechanical swimming lamprey

M. C. Leftwich, A. J. Smits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


To develop a comprehensive model of lamprey locomotion, we use a robotic lamprey to investigate the formation of the wake structure, the shedding vorticity from the body, and the relationship between thrust production and pressure on the surface of the robot. The robot mimics the motion of living lamprey in steady swimming by using a programmable microcomputer to actuate 13 servomotors that produce a traveling wave along the length of the lamprey body. The amplitude of the phase-averaged surface pressure distribution along the centerline of the robot increases toward the tail, which is consistent with previous momentum balance experiments. This indicates that thrust is produced mainly at the tail. The phase relationship between the pressure signal and the vortex shedding from the tail is also examined, showing a clear connection between the location of vortex structures and the fluctuations of the pressure signal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1355
Number of pages7
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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