Flexible margin kinematics and vortex formation of Aurelia aurita and Robojelly

Alex Villanueva, Pavlos Vlachos, Shashank Priya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The development of a rowing jellyfish biomimetic robot termed as "Robojelly", has led to the discovery of a passive flexible flap located between the flexion point and bell margin on the Aurelia aurita. A comparative analysis of biomimetic robots showed that the presence of a passive flexible flap results in a significant increase in the swimming performance. In this work we further investigate this concept by developing varying flap geometries and comparing their kinematics with A. aurita. It was shown that the animal flap kinematics can be replicated with high fidelity using a passive structure and a flap with curved and tapered geometry gave the most biomimetic performance. A method for identifying the flap location was established by utilizing the bell curvature and the variation of curvature as a function of time. Flaps of constant cross-section and varying lengths were incorporated on the Robojelly to conduct a systematic study of the starting vortex circulation. Circulation was quantified using velocity field measurements obtained from planar Time Resolved Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (TRDPIV). The starting vortex circulation was scaled using a varying orifice model and a pitching panel model. The varying orifice model which has been traditionally considered as the better representation of jellyfish propulsion did not appear to capture the scaling of the starting vortex. In contrast, the pitching panel representation appeared to better scale the governing flow physics and revealed a strong dependence on the flap kinematics and geometry. The results suggest that an alternative description should be considered for rowing jellyfish propulsion, using a pitching panel method instead of the traditional varying orifice model. Finally, the results show the importance of incorporating the entire bell geometry as a function of time in modeling rowing jellyfish propulsion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere98310
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 6 2014
Externally publishedYes


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