Modeling simple locomotors in Stokes flow

Alex Kanevsky, Michael J. Shelley, Anna Karin Tornberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivated by the locomotion of flagellated micro-organisms and by recent experiments of chemically driven nanomachines, we study the dynamics of bodies of simple geometric shape that are propelled by specified tangential surface stresses. We develop a mathematical description of the body dynamics based on a mixed-type boundary integral formulation. We also derive analytic axisymmetric solutions for the case of a single locomoting sphere and ellipsoid based on spherical and ellipsoidal harmonics, and compare our numerical results to these. The hydrodynamic interactions between two spherical and ellipsoidal swimmers in an infinite fluid are then simulated using second-order accurate spatial and temporal discretizations. We find that the near-field interactions result in complex and interesting changes in the locomotors' orientations and trajectories. Stable as well as unstable pairwise swimming motions are observed, similar to the recent findings of Pooley et al. [C.M. Pooley, G.P. Alexander, J.M. Yeomans, Hydrodynamic interaction between two swimmers at low Reynolds number, Phys. Rev. Lett. 99 (2007) 228103].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)958-977
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 20 2010


  • Boundary integral formulation
  • Locomotors
  • Nystrom collocation
  • Stokes equations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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