Caltech Logo

Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar

Thursday, April 13, 2023
11:00am to 12:00pm
Add to Cal
Gates-Thomas 135
Wake Dynamics of Oscillating Foils for Energy Harvesting
Jennifer Franck, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar Series

Title: Wake Dynamics of Oscillating Foils for Energy Harvesting

Abstract: Swimming and flying animals rely on the fluid around them to provide lift or thrust forces, leaving behind a distinct vortex wake in the fluid. The structure and size of the vortex wake is a blueprint of the animal's kinematic trajectory, holding information about the forces and also the size, speed and direction of motion. This talk will introduce a bio-inspired oscillating turbine, which can be operated to generate energy from moving water through lift generation, in the same manner as flapping birds or bats. This style of turbines offers distinct benefits compared with traditional rotation-based turbines such as the ability to dynamically shift its kinematics for changing flow conditions, thus altering its wake pattern. Current efforts lie in predicting the vortex formation and dynamics of the highly structured wake such that it can be utilized towards cooperative motion within arrays of oscillating foils. Using numerical simulations, this talk will discuss efforts towards linking the fluid dynamic wake signature to the underlying foil kinematics, and investigating how that effects the energy harvesting performance of downstream foils. Two machine learning methodologies are introduced to classify, cluster and identify complex vorticity patterns and modes of energy harvesting, and inform more detailed modeling of arrays of oscillating foils.

Bio: Jennifer Franck is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She leads the Computational Flow Physics and Modeling Lab, using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques to explore the flow physics of unsteady and turbulent flows. Ongoing research projects are in the areas of bio-inspired flows and the fluid dynamics of renewable energy systems with current projects funded by NSF and ARPA-E. Prior to joining the UW-Madison faculty in 2018, she was faculty at Brown University. She received her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of Virginia, followed by a M.S. and Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology. Following her PhD, she was awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship hosted at Brown University to computationally explore fluid dynamics mechanics of flapping flight.

NOTE: At this time, in-person Mechanical and Civil Engineering Lectures are open to all Caltech students/staff/faculty/visitors.

For more information, please contact Stacie Takase by phone at (626) 395-3389 or by email at [email protected] or visit