Giuseppe Pucci, Ian Ho & Daniel M. Harris.
Sci. Rep. volume 9, Article number: 4095 (2019). Full text
A body in motion tends to stay in motion but is often slowed by friction. Here we investigate the friction experienced by centimeter-sized bodies sliding on water. We show that their motion is dominated by skin friction due to the boundary layer that forms in the fluid beneath the body. We develop a simple model that considers the boundary layer as quasi-steady, and is able to capture the experimental behaviour for a range of body sizes, masses, shapes and fluid viscosities. Furthermore, we demonstrate that friction can be reduced by modification of the body’s shape or bottom topography. Our results are significant for understanding natural and artificial bodies moving at the air-water interface, and can inform the design of aerial-aquatic microrobots for environmental exploration and monitoring.