Welcome! Here we do aerodynamics and hydrodynamics research using both experiments and simulations. Primarily, we design and study systems that sense, respond to, and manipulate an unsteady fluid flow around them. These include flows that are unsteady purposefully (fish swimming) or chaotically (turbulence). Our research leads to novel vehicle design, improved swimming and flying performance, and a better understanding of how our world is influenced by fluid motion.


Bio-inspired propulsion

Vehicle Design – Our team is developing the next generation of underwater swimmers inspired by biology. Most vehicles use propellers for thrust underwater, which can be loud and difficult to use for maneuvering. We propose new designs that use lift-based propulsors, or unsteady foils to generate motion. The vehicle here—“Moza”—is motivated by multi-fin swimmers like the Mosasaurus.

Utilizing Biomorphology – Swimming animals have many tools that are not at our disposal with current technology. Active stiffness, through muscle action, and shapes optimized by evolution help to achieve swimming superiority. We study how these Biomorphology traits can influence the performance of oscillating foil propulsors and apply them to next-generation swimming technology.

Soft Robotics Education – Teaming with Spectral Energies and the Navy, we are developing a K-12 Bioinspired Soft Robotics Education Kit. This kit includes pre-designed builds to guide students through complex mechatronics, compliant materials, and programming of soft robotic swimmers inspired by biology. The kit will also facilitate a new yearly competition for high school seniors throughout the USA.

Flow Control

Vortex Control – Many aerodynamic and hydrodynamic flows are dominated by vortex structure. For example, the vortex generated at the leading edge of a delta wing. Sometimes it would help to manipulate or even destroy these vortices. We are developing strategies using unsteady jets to destroy pre-existing structure for the Air Force. Using synthetic jets, we can successfully destroy vortex structure actively, leading to pressure recovery in the downstream flow.

Actuator Development – One actuator or flow control strategy does not fit all scenarios. We develop custom flow control actuators for specific scenarios, leading to ideal control authority over the local fluid flow. These strategies can include passive devices like vortex generators or wall patterning, and active devices like steady jets, unsteady jets, suction, and oscillating surfaces. (Pictured is a cartoon comparison of a steady vs unsteady jet acting on a flat plate.)

Turbulence in our Environment

Particle Transport – Dust in the wind, sand in coastal zones, bubbles at the sea surface—turbulent flows can frequently be laden with particles of varying size, shape, and mass. These particles can influence and change how the flows behave. To study how particle density impacts turbulence, we are sending an experiment to the International Space Station! Hosted by NASA, we are studying von Karman flow using PIV in the microgravity environment. (Pictured is student Valerie Moore holding the first iteration of the cubeLab flow experiment.)

Sediment Suspension – When a propeller or fin swims near a sediment bed, it can induce sediment suspension. This can be beneficial; animals use this to hunt prey or hide from predators. It can also be detrimental; with shallow water ship traffic mobilizing & burying seabed munitions or leading to life-threatening “silt out” for scuba divers. We study how thrusters, either traditional propellers or oscillating fins, lead to sediment suspension, hopefully teaching us how to avoid or take advantage of it.

Wind-Induced Crop Failure – When corn fields fail due to wind, it happens in large swaths leading to large-scale crop loss. We hypothesize that this is due to the large-scale motions in the turbulent atmospheric boundary layer. As our climate changes, we are experiencing more frequent extreme weather events and we need to develop mitigation strategies to avoid food shortages. In the lab, we are exploring planting strategies for farmers to pattern their crops in a way that is more robust to extreme winds through non-homogenous flexibility of crops.

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