Sedimenting pairs of elastic microfilaments†
The dynamics of two identical elastic filaments settling under gravity in a viscous fluid in the low Reynolds number regime is investigated numerically. A large family of initial configurations symmetric with respect to a vertical plane is considered, as well as their non-symmetric perturbations. The behaviour of the filaments is primarily governed by the elasto-gravitational number, which depends on the filament's length and flexibility, and the strength of the external force. Flexible filaments usually converge toward horizontal and parallel orientation. We explain this phenomenon and show that it occurs also for curved rigid particles of similar shapes. Once aligned, the two fibres either converge toward a stationary, flexibility-dependent distance, or tend to collide or continuously repel each other. Rigid and straight rods perform periodic motions while settling down. Apart from very stiff particles, the dynamics is robust to non-symmetric perturbations.