Stingrays Unique and Round Shape may Inspire Improvement of Deep-Sea Vehicles

First Posted: Nov 13, 2013 04:21 PM EST

Could the movement of stingrays--cartilaginous fish classified in the Myliobatidae suborder--be the inspiration for the improvement of deep-sea vehicles' agility and fuel efficiency? Researchers from the University of Buffalo and Harvard University seem to think so as they are currently working on the design of more powerful underwater engines.

According to a recent study, these future engines could work to clean up parts of the unexplored oceanic-depths or even help during rescue efforts.

"Most fish wag their tails to swim. A stingray's swimming is much more unique, like a flag in the wind," Richard Bottom, a UB mechanical engineering graduate student participating in the research said, via a press release.

Bottom and Iman Borazjani, UB assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will explain the form-functioning relationship of the stingray and how this could work in a newly concocted underwater engine, via the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics.

The researchers used computational fluid dynamics that employ algorithms to solve problems via fluid flows that map the flow of water and the vortices around live stingrays.

The study is believed to show a leading-edge vortex at the front of an object motion that has been studied in underwater locomotion, according to Borazjani, via the release. This vortex has even been observed in the flight of birds and insects.

Researchers note that favorable pressure fields have been found on the stingrays' bodies in the front and high pressure of the back push it forward.

"By looking at nature, we can learn from it and come up with new designs for cars, planes and submarines," Borazjani said, via the release. "But we're not just mimicking nature. We want to understand the underlying physics for future use in engineering or central designs."

Due to the creatures unique flat and round shape and easy ability to glide through water, these findings show how adaptable stingrays can go through water, as well as be a map for other possible underwater creations. 

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