Metachronal motion is a unique swimming strategy widely adopted by many small animals on the scale of microns up to several centimeters (e.g., ctenophores, copepods, krill, and shrimp). During propulsion, each evenly spaced appendage performs a propulsive stroke sequentially with a constant phaselag from its neighbor, forming a metachronal wave. To produce net thrust in the low-to-intermediate Reynolds number regime, where viscous forces are dominant, the beat cycle of a metachronal appendage must present significant spatial asymmetry between the power and recovery stroke. As the Reynolds number increases, the beat cycle is observed to change from high spatial asymmetry to lower spatial asymmetry. However, it is still unclear how the magnitude of spatial asymmetry can modify the shear layers near the tip of appendages and thus affect its associated hydrodynamic performance. In this study, ctenophores are used to investigate the hydrodynamics of multiple appendages performing a metachronal wave. Ctenophores swim using paddle-like ciliary structures (i.e., ctenes), which beat metachronally in rows circumscribing an ovoid body. Based on high-speed video recordings, we reconstruct the metachronal wave of ctenes for both a lower spatial asymmetry case and a higher spatial asymmetry case. An in-house immersed-boundary-method-based computational fluid dynamics solver is used to simulate the flow field and associated hydrodynamic performance. Our simulation results aim to provide fundamental fluid dynamic principles for guiding the design of bio-inspired miniaturized flexible robots swimming in the low-to-intermediate Reynolds number regime.

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