Rotation of slender swimmers in isotropic-drag media

Koens, Lyndon Mathijs ; Lauga, Eric Jean-Marie (2016)


The drag anisotropy of slender filaments is a critical physical property allowing swimming in low-Reynolds number flows, and without it linear translation is impossible. Here we show that, in contrast, net rotation can occur under isotropic drag. We first demonstrate this result formally by considering the consequences of the force- and torque-free conditions on swimming bodies and we then illustrate it with two examples (a simple swimmers made of three rods and a model bacterium with two helical flagellar filaments). Our results highlight the different role of hydrodynamic forces in generating translational vs. rotational propulsion.