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April 14, 2014

Engineers are 'schooling' themselves on fish maneuvers

Their research is revealing more about what it takes to truly swim like a fish

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), aerospace engineer Michael Philen and his team at Virginia Tech are investigating the biomechanics of fish locomotion, in hopes of contributing to the next generation of robotic fish and underwater submersibles.

The researchers are studying how fish use their muscles to swim efficiently and execute underwater maneuvers, such as darting around in perfectly synchronized schools.

Philen and his team also are developing new smart materials, such as a bioengineered hair that is modeled after the hair cell sensors on the side of fish that allow it to detect minute changes in water flow.

Read more about the artificial fish project and related research on the Virginia Tech Aerospace Structures and Materials Lab website.

The research in this episode was funded by NSF award #0938043, EFRI-BSBA: Multifunctional materials exhibiting distributed actuation, sensing, and control: Uncovering the hierarchical control of fish for developing smarter materials.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Ann Kellan, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.