Dolphins are known for their outstanding swimming performance. However, the difference in flow physics at different speeds remains elusive. In this work, the underlying mechanisms of dolphin swimming at three speeds, 2 m/s, 5 m/s, and 8 m/s, are explored using a combined experimental and numerical approach. Using the scanned CAD model of the Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) and virtual skeleton-based surface reconstruction method, a three-dimensional high-fidelity computational model is obtained with time-varying kinematics. A sharp-interface immersed-boundary-method (IBM) based direct numerical simulation (DNS) solver is employed to calculate the corresponding thrust production, wake structure, and surface pressure at different swimming speeds. It is found that the fluke keeps its effective angle of attack at high values for about 60% of each stroke. The total pressure force coefficient along the x-axis converges as the speed increase. The flow and surface pressure analysis both show considerable differences between lower (2 m/s) and higher (5 m/s and 8 m/s) speeds. The results from this work help to bring new insight into understanding the force generation mechanisms of the highly efficient dolphin swimming and offer potential suggestions to the future designs of unmanned underwater vehicles.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.