Technical Briefs

Propulsive Efficiency of the Underwater Dolphin Kick in Humans

[+] Author and Article Information
Alfred von Loebbecke, Rajat Mittal

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052

Frank Fish

Department of Biology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383

Russell Mark

 USA Swimming, Colorado Springs, CO 80909

J Biomech Eng 131(5), 054504 (Apr 13, 2009) (4 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3116150 History: Received August 16, 2008; Revised December 18, 2008; Published April 13, 2009

Three-dimensional fully unsteady computational fluid dynamic simulations of five Olympic-level swimmers performing the underwater dolphin kick are used to estimate the swimmer’s propulsive efficiencies. These estimates are compared with those of a cetacean performing the dolphin kick. The geometries of the swimmers and the cetacean are based on laser and CT scans, respectively, and the stroke kinematics is based on underwater video footage. The simulations indicate that the propulsive efficiency for human swimmers varies over a relatively wide range from about 11% to 29%. The efficiency of the cetacean is found to be about 56%, which is significantly higher than the human swimmers. The computed efficiency is found not to correlate with either the slender body theory or with the Strouhal number.

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1

Typical vortex structures seen in (a) the Cetacean stroke and (b) the human dolphin kick

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2

Total and streamwise component of force exerted by one representative triangular surface element. The velocity of the triangle in the laboratory reference frame is also shown and the swimming direction and speed V is indicated by the gray, horizontal arrow.



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