The movement of jellyfish and lampreys, which suck the water towards them in order to move forward, could allow us to design a new type of submarine, with a significantly lower energy-consumption.
We already knew that jellyfish and lampreys were able to move very fast without expending a lot of energy but for many years we did not know the reason. Lampreys are a very old species of fish that move like an eel, and as jellyfish are soft creatures, without skeletons or brains, that have inhabited the oceans for millions of years, even before the formation of continents.
To define their mode of locomotion, the researchers went through the study of the pressure of the water surrounding the animals. Indeed, by measuring, for the first time, the pressure these animals exert on the surrounding water, they demonstrated that their swimming mechanism is very different from what was originally thought.
According to its mode of displacement, the animal manipulates the water which surrounds it, creating either a high or a low pressure. Moving its body to the side creates high pressure while rotating the body creates whirlpools that are accompanied by low pressure.
In the case of high pressure, the animal can use it to propel itself while a low pressure pulls the animal forward as if it were sucked. Results indicate that these high performance swimmers mainly use the low pressure mechanism.
This discovery challenges all previous assumptions. These observations could, ultimately, make it possible to design underwater vehicles that move with unprecedented energy efficiency. If the suction mechanism observed in animals can be applied to underwater vehicles, significant energy savings can be realised.
Wadii, Consultant, Leyton France
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