On wave-driven propulsion

Graham Benham*, Olivier Devauchelle, Stuart J Thomson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


A theory is presented for wave-driven propulsion of floating bodies driven into oscillation at the fluid interface. By coupling the equations of motion of the body to a quasipotential flow model of the fluid, we derive expressions for the drift speed and propulsive thrust of the body which in turn are shown to be consistent with global momentum conservation. We explore the efficacy of our model in describing the motion of SurferBot (Rhee et al., Bioinspir. Biomim., vol. 17, issue 5, 2022), demonstrating close agreement with the experimentally determined drift speed and oscillatory dynamics. The efficiency of wave-driven propulsion is then computed as a function of driving oscillation frequency and the forcing location, revealing optimal values for both of these parameters which await confirmation in experiments. A comparison with other modes of locomotion and applications of our model with competitive water sports is discussed in conclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA44
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Mathematics Research Group


  • Fluid dynamics
  • waves
  • Fluid-structure interaction


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