A novel computational approach to simulate microswimmers propelled by bacterial flagella

Wanho Lee, Yongsam Kim, Charles S. Peskin, Sookkyung Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peritrichously flagellated bacteria swim in a fluid environment by rotating motors embedded in the cell membrane and consequently rotating multiple helical flagella. We present a novel mathematical model of a microswimmer that can freely run propelled by a flagellar bundle and tumble upon motor reversals. Our cell model is composed of a rod-shaped rigid cell body and multiple flagella randomly distributed over the cell body. These flagella can go through polymorphic transformations. We demonstrate that flagellar bundling is influenced by flagellar distribution and hence the number of flagella. Moreover, the reorientation of cells is affected by the number of flagella, how many flagella change their polymorphisms within a cell, the tumble timing, different combinations of polymorphic sequences, and random motor reversals. Our mathematical method can be applied to numerous types of microorganisms and may help to understand their characteristic swimming mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111903
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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