Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Kamran Mohseni

Second Advisor

Sedat Biringen

Third Advisor

Jean Hertzberg


A new type of thruster technology offers promising low speed maneuvering capabilities for underwater vehicles. Similar to the natural locomotion of squid and jellyfish the thruster successively forces fluid jets in and out of a small internal cavity. We investigate several properties of squid and jellyfish locomotion to drive the thruster design including actuation of nozzle geometry and vortex ring thrust augmentation. The thrusters are compact with no extruding components to negatively impact the vehicle's drag. These devices have thrust rise-times orders of magnitude faster than those reported for typical propeller thrusters, making them an attractive option for high accuracy underwater vehicle maneuvering. The dynamics of starting jet circulation, impulse, and kinetic energy are derived in terms of kinematics at the entrance boundary of a semi-infinite domain, specifically identifying the effect of a non-parallel incoming flow. A model for pressure at the nozzle is derived without the typical reliance on a predetermined potential function, making it a powerful tool for modeling any jet flow. Jets are created from multiple nozzle configurations to validate these models, and velocity and vorticity fields are determined using DPIV techniques. A converging starting jet resulted in circulation 90-100%, impulse 70-75%, and energy 105-135% larger than a parallel starting jet with identical volume flux and piston velocity, depending on the stroke ratio. The new model is a much better predictor of the jet properties than the standard 1D slug model. A simplified thrust model, was derived to describe the high frequency thruster characteristics. This model accurately predicts the average thrust, measured directly, for stroke ratios up to a critical value where the leading vortex ring separates from the remainder of the shear flow. A new model predicting the vortex ring pinch-off process is developed based on characteristic centerline velocities. The vortex ring pinch-off is coincides with this velocity criterion, for all cases tested. Piston velocity program and nozzle radius are optimized with respect to average thrust, and a quantity similar to propulsive efficiency. The average thrust is maximized by a critical nozzle radius. An approximate linear time-invariant (LTI) model of the thruster vehicle system was derived which categorizes maneuvers into different characteristic regimes. Initial thruster testing showed that open and closed loop frequency response were sufficiently approximated by the LTI model, and that the thruster is ideally suited for small scale high accuracy maneuvers.