Optimal shapes for anguilliform swimmers at intermediate Reynolds numbers

Wim M. Van Rees, Mattia Gazzola, Petros Koumoutsakos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the optimal morphologies for fast and efficient anguilliform swimmers at intermediate Reynolds numbers, by combining an evolution strategy with three-dimensional viscous vortex methods. We show that anguilliform swimmer shapes enable the trapping and subsequent acceleration of regions of fluid transported along the entire body by the midline travelling wave. A sensitivity analysis of the optimal morphological traits identifies that the width thickness in the anterior of the body and the height of the caudal fin are critical factors for both speed and efficiency. The fastest swimmer without a caudal fin, however, still retains 80% of its speed, showing that the entire body is used to generate thrust. The optimal shapes share several features with naturally occurring morphologies, but their overall appearances differ. This demonstrates that engineered swimmers can outperform biomimetic swimmers for the criteria considered here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R31-R312
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological fluid dynamics
  • Propulsion
  • Swimming/flying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

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