Optimal specific wavelength for maximum thrust production in undulatory propulsion

Nishant Nangia, Rahul Bale, Nelson Chen, Yohanna Hanna, Neelesh A. Patankar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


What wavelengths do undulatory swimmers use during propulsion? In this work we find that a wide range of body/caudal fin (BCF) swimmers, from larval zebrafish and herring to fully± grown eels, use specific wavelength (ratio of wavelength to tail amplitude of undulation) values that fall within a relatively narrow range. The possible emergence of this constraint is interrogated using numerical simulations of fluid±structure interaction. Based on these, it was found that there is an optimal specific wavelength (OSW) that maximizes the swimming speed and thrust generated by an undulatory swimmer. The observed values of specific wavelength for BCF animals are relatively close to this OSW. The mechanisms underlying the maximum propulsive thrust for BCF swimmers are quantified and are found to be consistent with the mechanisms hypothesized in prior work. The adherence to an optimal value of specific wavelength in most natural hydrodynamic propulsors gives rise to empirical design criteria for man±made propulsors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0179727
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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