CITRIS support leads to more efficient design for underwater instruments

Grey reef shark swimming against dark background.

Grace Gu, recipient of a 2021 CITRIS Seed Award, and her team at UC Berkeley have published a study in Extreme Mechanics Letters that demonstrates a means to potentially reduce the surface drag and flow-based noise of underwater instruments by mimicking shark skin. 

The textured surface on shark skin, a pattern known as riblets, have been previously shown to decrease drag. Seeking to optimize the surfaces of towed sonar arrays (TSAs), Gu’s research team used computational modeling to simulate a range of flow types over riblet surfaces and found that rectangular riblets notably reduced noise and improved the system’s hydrodynamics. Their testing further provided insight into the mechanisms that drive noise suppression, opening a pathway to broader advancements in underwater devices and to reduce the noise pollution that disrupts marine life. 

This research builds upon the work of Gu’s Seed Award project, which, with the aid of machine learning, focused on developing a biomimicry of mako shark skin to reduce air drag on commercial airplanes.

Read more from Berkeley Engineering.