Underwater vehicles may become more fuel efficient and agile if research in fluid dynamics proves viable. The stingray?s unusual swimming technique is under scrutiny. The participants used algorithms to solve problems involving fluid flows, and mapping the flow of water and the vortices around these live fish.

Lead researchers Richard Bottom, graduate student, and Iman Borazjani, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, from the University of Buffalo came upon this unique view of the leading-edge vortex which is the vortex at the front of an object in motion as it relates to underwater locomotion. Borazjani explains that the study of leading-edge vortex is not new, but has only been considered in the flight of birds and insects. In insect flight, it is one of the most important thrust enhancement mechanics.

Vortices, indicated by blue bubbles, on the waves of a stingray’s body cause favorable pressure fields that push the ray forward. 

Credit: Richard Bottom

Instead of wagging its tail as most fish do to propel themselves, Bottom says, ?A stingray’s swimming is much more unique, like a flag in the wind.? The stingray?s unique flat and round shape allows them to easily glide through water.
Borazjani says, ?By looking at nature, we can learn from it and come up with new designs for cars, planes and submarines. But we?re not just mimicking nature. We want to understand the underlying physics for future use in engineering or central designs.?

Their research subject could be potentially dangerous. We won?t forget that the sting of a ray ended the life of ?Crocodile Hunter", Steve Irwin.