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Published January 2009 | Published
Journal Article Open

Optimal vortex formation as a unifying principle in biological propulsion


I review the concept of optimal vortex formation and examine its relevance to propulsion in biological and bio-inspired systems, ranging from the human heart to underwater vehicles. By using examples from the existing literature and new analyses, I show that optimal vortex formation can potentially serve as a unifying principle to understand the diversity of solutions used to achieve propulsion in nature. Additionally, optimal vortex formation can provide a framework in which to design engineered propulsions systems that are constrained by pressures unrelated to biology. Finally, I analyze the relationship between optimal vortex formation and previously observed constraints on Strouhal frequency during animal locomotion in air and water. It is proposed that the Strouhal frequency constraint is but one consequence of the process of optimal vortex formation and that others remain to be discovered.

Additional Information

© 2009 by Annual Reviews. First published online as a Review in Advance on June 3, 2008. The author is indebted to Morteza Gharib for discussions and collaborations that motivated this review. The support of the National Science Foundation programs in Ocean Sciences, Ocean Technology, and Energy for Sustainability is gratefully noted, as is an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program award.

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Published - Dabiri2009p33310.1146annurev.fluid.010908.165232.pdf


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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023