Nonlinear Models and Geometric Structure of Fluid Forcing on Moving Bodies


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


This dissertation presents useful nonlinear models for fluid forcing on a moving body in two distinct contexts, and methods for analyzing the geometric structure within those and other mathematical models. This manuscript style dissertation presents three works within the theme of understanding fluid forcing and geometric structure.

When a bluff body is free to move in the presence of an incoming bluff body wake, the average forcing on the body is dependent on its position relative to the upstream bluff body. This position-dependent forcing can be conceptualized as a stiffness, much like a spring. This work presents an updated model for the quasi-steady fluid forcing of a wake and extends the notion of wake stiffness to consider a nonlinear spring. These results are compared with kinematic experimental results to provide an example of the application of this framework.

Fluid force models also play a role in understanding the behavior of passive aerodynamic gliders, such as gliding animals or plant material. The forces a glider experiences depend on the angle that its body makes with respect to its direction of motion. Modeling the glider as capable of pitch control, this work considers a glider with a fixed angle with respect to the ground. Within this model, all trajectories in velocity space collapse to a 1-dimensional invariant manifold known as the terminal velocity manifold. This work presents methods to identify the terminal velocity manifold, investigates its properties, and extends it to a 2-dimensional invariant manifold in a 3-dimensional space.

Finally, in the search for manifolds such as the terminal velocity manifold, this dissertation introduces a new diagnostic for identifying the low dimensional geometric structure of models. The trajectory divergence rate uses instantaneous vector field information to identify regions of large normal stretching and strong normal convergence between nearby invariant manifolds. This work lays out the mathematical basis of the trajectory divergence rate and shows its application to approximate a variety of structures including slow manifolds and Lagrangian coherent structures.

This dissertation applies nonlinear theoretical and numerical techniques to analyze models of fluid forcing and their geometric structure. The tools developed in this dissertation lay the groundwork for future research in the fields of flow-induced vibration, plant and animal biomechanics, and dynamical systems.



Fluid-structure interaction, phase space structure, computational geometry, nonlinear dynamics