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Fluid-structure interaction and the ground effect in animal locomotion


The ground effect in aerodynamics is associated with the enhanced lift that results from being in the neighborhood of a rigid boundary. While this effect has been well studied on the large-scale for fast moving objects such as planes, it is also of relevance in animal locomotion in such instances as hovering and skimming in insects, fishes and other flying and swimming animals In a general confined flow, the center of pressure of the moving body does not coincide with the center of mass so that there is a torque imbalance on the body. If the body is elastic, it will deform in response to this torque, a fact that is beautifully demonstrated by the dynamics of a sliding transparency on an overhead projector that floats for a while even as it settles down. The main goal of the project will be to construct a theoretical model for the interaction of fluids with elastic structures in the vicinity of a wall, motivated by considerations of animal locomotion. The content of the proposed project gives the opportunity for applying the techniques of the non-linear dynamics field to the fascinating problem of insect locomotion, and also for learning the Physics and Biology which are necessary to understand that problem. Through this project, I will broaden my understanding of Biophysics, Biomechanics and Elasticity, or more generally Continuum Mechanics. This knowledge will be very useful in the future for studying and solving problems at the interface between Physics and Biology. Because there are experimentalists at DAMTP, it will be possible to have some interaction with them and I will have the possibility to set up an experiment related with my project.

Funding Scheme

RGI - Research grants (individual fellowships)


University of Cambridge
Silver Street
CB3 9EW Cambridge
United Kingdom