A numerical study of fin and jet propulsions involving fluid-structure interactions

  • Yang Luo

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Fish swimming is elegant and efficient, which inspires humans to learn from them to design high-performance artificial underwater vehicles. Research on aquatic locomotion has made extensive progress towards a better understanding of how aquatic animals control their flexible body and fin for propulsion. Although the structural flexibility and deformation of the body and fin are believed to be important features to achieve optimal swimming performance, studies on high-fidelity deformable body and fin with complex material behavior, such as non-uniform stiffness distributions, are rare. In this thesis, a fully coupled three-dimensional high-fidelity fluid-structure interaction (FSI) solver is developed to investigate the flow field evolution and propulsion performance of caudal fin and jet propulsion involving body and/or fin deformation. Within this FSI solver, the fluid is resolved by solving unsteady and viscous Navier-Stokes equations based on the finite volume method with a multi-block grid system. The solid dynamics are solved by a nonlinear finite element method. The coupling between the two solvers is achieved in a partitioned approach in which convergence check and sub-iteration are implemented to ensure numerical stability and accuracy. Validations are conducted by comparing the simulation results of classical benchmarks with previous data in the literature, and good agreements between them are obtained. The developed FSI solver is then applied to study the bio-inspired fin and jet propulsion involving body deformation. Specifically, the effect of non-uniform stiffness distributions of fish body and/or fin, key features of fish swimming which have been excluded in most previous studies, on the propulsive performance is first investigated. Simulation results of a sunfish-like caudal fin model and a tuna-inspired swimmer model both show that larger thrust and propulsion efficiency can be achieved by a non-uniform stiffness distribution (e.g., increased by 11.2% and 9.9%, respectively, for the sunfish-like model) compared with a uniform stiffness profile. Despite the improved propulsive e performance, a bionic variable fish body stiffness does not yield fish-like midline kinematics observed in real fish, suggesting that fish movement involves significant active control that cannot be replicated purely by passive deformations. Subsequent studies focus on the jet propulsion inspired by squid locomotion using the developed numerical solver. Simulation results of a two-dimensional inflation-deflation jet propulsion system, whose inflation is actuated by an added external force that mimics the muscle constriction of the mantle and deflation is caused by the release of elastic energy of the structure, suggest larger mean thrust production and higher efficiency in high Reynolds number scenarios compared with the cases in laminar flow. A unique symmetry-breaking instability in turbulent flow is found to stem from irregular internal body vortices, which cause symmetry breaking in the wake. Besides, a three-dimensional squid-like jet propulsion system in the presence of background flow is studied by prescribing the body deformation and jet velocity profiles. The effect of the background flow on the leading vortex ring formation and jet propulsion is investigated, and the thrust sources of the overall pulsed jet are revealed as well. Finally, FSI analysis on motion control of a self-propelled flexible swimmer in front of a cylinder utilizing proportional-derivative (PD) control is conducted. The amplitude of the actuation force, which is applied to the swimmer to bend it to produce thrust, is dynamically tuned by a feedback PD controller to instruct the swimmer to swim the desired distance from an initial position to a target location and then hold the station there. Despite the same swimming distance, a swimmer whose departure location is closer to the cylinder requires less energy consumption to reach the target and hold the position there.
Date of Award29 Sept 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorQing Xiao (Supervisor) & Zhiming Yuan (Supervisor)

Cite this