Rotational dynamics of a superhelix towed in a Stokes fluid

Sunghwan Jung, Kathleen Mareck, Lisa Fauci, Michael J. Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivated by the intriguing motility of spirochetes (helically shaped bacteria that screw through viscous fluids due to the action of internal periplasmic flagella), we examine the fundamental fluid dynamics of superhelices translating and rotating in a Stokes fluid. A superhelical structure may be thought of as a helix whose axial centerline is not straight, but also a helix. We examine the particular case in which these two superimposed helices have different handedness, and employ a combination of experimental, analytic, and computational methods to determine the rotational velocity of superhelical bodies being towed through a very viscous fluid. We find that the direction and rate of the rotation of the body is a result of competition between the two superimposed helices; for small axial helix amplitude, the body dynamics is controlled by the short-pitched helix, while there is a crossover at larger amplitude to control by the axial helix. We find far better, and excellent, agreement of our experimental results with numerical computations based upon the method of Regularized Stokeslets than upon the predictions of classical resistive force theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103105
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Rotational dynamics of a superhelix towed in a Stokes fluid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this