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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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School of Engineering and Materials Science
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PhD Thesis: Modelling of hydrodynamic propulsive forces generated by the human arm

Author: GARDANO, Paolo

Year: 2008

Supervisor(s): Peter Dabnichki

This work analysed the propulsion given by swimmer’s arm performing front crawl stroke by using two complimentary methods: experimental tests and computational methods.

The experimental part of the project aimed to derive both appropriate input and validation data from wind tunnel experiments on two models of human arm in order to obtain Drag and Lift values and related pressure distribution. However, due to the limitations in the experimental methods in terms of added terms, numerical approach becomes an invaluable tool in such simulations. The most prominent approach is the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). The main results reported that the Drag was the one that contributes more for the propulsion.

An important and innovative element that has been analyzed in this work is the special consideration to the dynamic of structures surrounded by water in term of induced acceleration and production of extra force on the structure in addition to the fluid-dynamic drag force. These results pointed out that the acceleration of hand/arm provides more propulsion to swimmers, confirming that some unsteady mechanism must be present in swimming propulsion.

Another important aspect of this work has been focusing on the real swimmer stroke trajectory, as a three dimensional approach, by recording a competitive swimmer during training with three underwater cameras and by analysing the swimmer arm movement performing stroke. Drag and Lift forces have been calculated and the results obtained showed a lower profile for both forces, compared to those ones obtained in a configuration with straight or fixed elbow angle (2D analysis). This innovative and original approach to the study of swimming made these results more reliable for a complete, comprehensive and reliable analysis.