The “father” of modern biomimetics
Michael Triantafyllou is the “William I. Koch Professor of Marine Technology” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the Director of the Center for Ocean Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Director at the “Chevron-MIT University Partnership Program” and and Director of the “Testing Tank and Propeller Tunnel Facilities” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research interests focus on Biomimetic Robotics, flow structure interaction and vorticity control, and dynamics and control of marine vehicles and structures.
“Is it possible that we could one day create robotic fish that could look a 100% like real fish?”, wonders Dr. Michalis Triantafyllou, Professor of Marine Technology in a past interview*. “We ‘re not there yet, but we’ re not very far. We’ ll always have real fish in the aquariums, but soon we’ ll have robot fish capable of moving as graceful and flexible as a dolphin or a sea-lion”.
Triantafyllou is widely known for his work on underwater robots, based upon and emulating the performance of fish. This work includes the six-foot laboratory robot, the “RoboTuna”, which is a part of a permanent exhibition at the Science Museum in London, the free-swimming “RoboPike”, and the “RoboTurtle”.
Michael Triantafyllou was born in Athens, Greece, in 1951. Athens is the place where he grew up and spent his early years. He graduated from the Experimental School of Athens University in 1969, and then from the National Technical University of Athens in 1974 (Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering), he then continued with graduate studies at MIT. In 1977 he graduated with a dual S.M. in Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. In 1979 he got his Sc.D in Ocean Engineering. Upon receiving his doctorate, Triantafyllou took up a teaching post at MIT in the Department of Ocean Engineering.
Triantafyllou has been a visiting scientist at the “Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution”, Chairman of the Joint MIT/WHOI Program Committee in Oceanographic Engineering, and visiting professor at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece (1986, 1994-1995, 2007-2008), Kyushu University in Japan, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. From 2013 he is the President of the National Technical University of Athens Council.
He has organised many research missions in order to trace shipwrecks of the ancient times using robotic means (AUV), with the participation of the National Technical University of Athens, the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR), the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the MIT. In fact, in 2001 he decided to launch a mission for recovering a mediaeval shipwreck off the coast of Nisyros, a small Greek island, and in 2004 he did the same thing in Cythera, another Greek island.