Lateral flow interactions enhance speed and stabilize formations of flapping swimmers

Joel W. Newbolt, Jun Zhang, Leif Ristroph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While classic hydrodynamic models predict ordered formations for fish schools, observations show that schools are seemingly disordered. Our experiments on robotic swimmers may help to reconcile this discrepancy by showing that many different formations all emerge spontaneously and are stabilized due to flow interactions. Surprisingly, these locked states extend almost twice as far downstream for laterally displaced swimmers as for those in line. We also observe significant boosts in swimming speed - up to 60% faster than an isolated swimmer - for side-by-side formations. These findings demonstrate that benefits such as group cohesion and speed enhancement arise naturally via flow interactions and for the diverse relative arrangements seen in schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL061101
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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