Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 12, 2017
Previous Article Next Article

Maximizing propulsive thrust of a driven filament at low Reynolds number via variable flexibility

Author affiliations

Abstract

At low Reynolds numbers the locomotive capability of a body can be dramatically hindered by the absence of inertia. In this work, we show how propulsive performance in this regime can be significantly enhanced by employing spatially varying flexibility. As a prototypical example, we consider the propulsive thrust generated by a filament periodically driven at one end. The rigid case leads to zero propulsion, as so constrained by Purcell's scallop theorem, while for uniform filaments there exists a bending stiffness maximizing the propulsive force at a given frequency; here we demonstrate explicitly how considerable further improvement can be achieved by simply varying the stiffness along the filament. The optimal flexibility distribution is strongly configuration-dependent: while increasing the flexibility towards the tail-end enhances the propulsion of a clamped filament, for a hinged filament decreasing the flexibility towards the tail-end is instead favorable. The results reveal new design principles for maximizing propulsion at low Reynolds numbers, potentially useful for developing synthetic micro-swimmers requiring large propulsive force for various biomedical applications.

Graphical abstract: Maximizing propulsive thrust of a driven filament at low Reynolds number via variable flexibility

Back to tab navigation
Please wait while Download options loads

Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 28 Dec 2016, accepted on 01 Mar 2017, published on 01 Mar 2017 and first published online on 01 Mar 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C6SM02880B
Citation: Soft Matter, 2017,13, 2339-2347
  •   Request permissions

    Maximizing propulsive thrust of a driven filament at low Reynolds number via variable flexibility

    Z. Peng, G. J. Elfring and O. S. Pak, Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 2339
    DOI: 10.1039/C6SM02880B

Search articles by author