Our lab works on an unusally broad range of research topics, covering a wide range of physical phenomena. Our unifying principle is a fascination with the mechanics of fluids and soft matter. We study both fundamental principles and applications in a wide range of physical systems that range from the nanometer to the industrial scale. We focus on experiments and the development of experimental techniques, but we collaborate closely with theorists and computational scientists.
A few of our key research projects are listed below:
Bat flight and membrane wing aeromechanics:
We study the aeromechanics of bat flight, understanding how these amazing animals utilize their unique morphology to accomplish the extraordinary flight performance. Our research, in collaboration with Sharon Swartz, includes a wide range of studies. We analyze high speed multiple camera recordings of live animal fight, recorded either in our specialized animal fight wind tunnel, or in an open flight room. We also have constructed a robotic bat wing capable of four degrees of articulation and mounted on a force plate so that we can measure lift and drag associated with different kinematic motions. We have constructed membrane wings, and measure the aerodynamic performance under a variety of operating conditions. In all of these experiments, live and engineered, we use time-resolved Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) to measure the flow fields in the the three-dimensional time-varying wakes associated with these complex flying machines.
Please take a look at our media server, with lots of cool photos and videos from our research
Energy Harvesting and Vortex Dynamics:
We are developing novel methods for harvesting energy from tidal and riverine streams and are working on innovative systems that utilize pitching and plunging hydrofoils that exploit the growth of a large leading edge vortex (LEV) as a means to extract energy from a fluid stream. Our work, in collaboration with Shreyas Mandre and Jen Franck, includes two series of experiments, conducted in a water flume and a wind tunnel, as well as computational simulations and field experiments of industrial-scale prototypes.
Microscale and Nanoscale Fluid Dynamics:
We have long been interested in the physics of fluids at the micron and nanometer scale, and the breakdown of the no-slip boundary condition in regions of high shear, such as in close proximity to a moving contact line. Our experiments includes the development of innovative optical diagnostic techniques using Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy that enables velocimetry near the solid surface with nanometer resolution.
Bacterial motility and flagellar mechanics:
Many bacteria swim by rotating their helical flagella and “screwing” themselves through the fluid. In collaboration with Tom Powers, we study the mechanics of this low Reynolds number mode of cell motility, and the influence of different parameters such as the non-Newtonian properties of the fluid, the cell geometry and its mechanical properties.