Falling leaves flutter from side to side due to passive and intrinsic fluid-body coupling. Exploiting the dynamics of passive fluttering could lead to fresh perspectives for the locomotion and manipulation of thin, planar objects in fluid environments. Here, we show that the time-varying density distribution within a thin, planar body effectively elicits minimal momentum control to reorient the principal flutter axis and propel itself via directional fluttery motions. We validated the principle by developing a swimming leaf with a soft skin that can modulate local buoyancy distributions for active flutter dynamics. To show generality and field applicability, we demonstrated underwater maneuvering and manipulation of adhesive and oil-skimming sheets for environmental remediation. These findings could inspire future intelligent underwater robots and manipulation schemes.

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