The role of flexibility on propulsive performance of flapping fins
Kancharala, Ashok Kumar
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The versatility of the fish to adapt to diverse swimming requirements has attracted the attention of researchers in studying bioinspired propulsion for developing efficient underwater robotics. The tail/caudal fin is a major source of thrust generation and is believed that the fish modulates its fin stiffness to optimize the propulsive performance. Inspired by the stiffness modulation of fish fins, the objective of this research is to predict and evaluate the effect of flexibility on propulsive performance of flapping fins. The stiffness of the fins vary along their length and optimization studies have been performed to predict the stiffness profiles that maximize performance. Experiments performed on the real fish caudal fins to measure the stiffness variation along their length validate the theoretical optimal stiffness profiles and provide an insight about the evolution of fish fins for optimal performance. Along with the fin stiffness, the stiffness of the joint (caudal peduncle) connecting the fish body to the tail plays a major role in the generation of thrust. The numerical and experimental investigation has shown that there exists an optimal combination of fin and joint stiffness for each operating condition, thus providing the motivation for active stiffness control during locomotion to optimize efficiency. Inspired by nature's ability to modulate stiffness and shape for different operating conditions, an investigation has been carried out on active control of flapping foils for thrust tailoring using Macro Fiber Composites (MFCs). It has been observed that the performance can be enhanced by controlling the deformation, and distributed actuation along fin produces maximum performance through proper selection of the phase difference between heaving and voltage. Flapping fins produce forces which are oscillatory in nature causing center of mass (COM) oscillations of the attached bodies posing problems of control and maneuverability. Optimization studies have revealed that flexibility of the fin plays a major role in reducing the COM oscillations along with the other operating parameters. Based on these studies, the design principles and guidelines that control the performance have been proposed which aid in the development of aerial and underwater robotic vehicles. Additionally, these studies provide some insight in to how fish might modulate its stiffness based on the requirements.
- Doctoral Dissertations