Energy harvesting from the tail beating of a carangiform swimmer using ionic polymer-metal composites

Youngsu Cha, Matteo Verotti, Horace Walcott, Sean D. Peterson, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we study energy harvesting from the beating of a biomimetic fish tail using ionic polymer-metal composites. The design of the biomimetic tail is based on carangiform swimmers and is specifically inspired by the morphology of the heterocercal tail of thresher sharks. The tail is constituted of a soft silicone matrix molded in the form of the heterocercal tail and reinforced by a steel beam of rectangular cross section. We propose a modeling framework for the underwater vibration of the biomimetic tail, wherein the tail is assimilated to a cantilever beam with rectangular cross section and heterogeneous physical properties. We focus on base excitation in the form of a superimposed rotation about a fixed axis and we consider the regime of moderately large-amplitude vibrations. In this context, the effect of the encompassing fluid is described through a hydrodynamic function, which accounts for inertial, viscous and convective phenomena. The model is validated through experiments in which the base excitation is systematically varied and the motion of selected points on the biomimetic tail tracked in time. The feasibility of harvesting energy from an ionic polymer-metal composite attached to the vibrating structure is experimentally and theoretically assessed. The response of the transducer is described using a black-box model, where the voltage output is controlled by the rate of change of the mean curvature. Experiments are performed to elucidate the impact of the shunting resistance, the frequency of the base excitation and the placement of the ionic polymer-metal composite on energy harvesting from the considered biomimetic tail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number036003
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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