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Aurel Stodola Lecture

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The Aurel Stodola Lecture Series commemorate the personality and seminal contributions of Prof. Aurel Stodola in the early 20th century whose work on applied thermodynamics has guided many engineers and engineering developments worldwide. The Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering (D-MAVT) elected Prof. Michael S. Triantafyllou as its speaker of the 2014 Aurel Stodola Lecture Series:

Prof. Michael S. Triantafyllou - Laureate of the Aurel Stodola Medal 2014

Aurel Stodola Lecture May 5, 2014


Prof. Michael S. Triantafyllou

Center for Ocean Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

The fluid mechanics governing the escape or attack maneuvers of marine animals and birds, what we will call survival hydrodynamics, are of particular interest, because their recorded performance is truly impressive: Fish 30 cm long can reach accelerations exceeding ten times gravity acceleration in a fraction of a second, and small squids can reach burst speeds of 25 body lengths per second. Such performance forces us to pose some basic questions on underlying flow mechanisms that are not used in engineered vehicles. A closely related issue is the ability of animals to sense the flow around them in order to detect and discriminate threats in environments where vision or other sensing is of limited or no use. 

The ability of marine animals to detect their environment through pressure and velocity sensing is best exemplified by the blind cavefish that darts through cluttered cave environments in absolute darkness; and the harbor seal that detects the wake of prey up to 30 seconds after it has passed. Survival dictated the development of such hydrodynamic sensing that is totally absent from engineered structures. Again, we are forced to pose some basic questions: How detectable is a flow from a localized distributed array of sensors? How can we detect flows down to 1 mm/s while moving at high speed?

In the talk, animal flow sensing and actuation are used as a source of inspiration to formulate basic problems and pose questions to help us investigate mechanisms which allow animals to develop their remarkable performance. In this manner, we arrive at some startling new mechanisms of actuation and sensing.

Former Awardees




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