Fluid elasticity can enable propulsion at low Reynolds number

Nathan C. Keim, Mike Garcia, Paulo E. Arratia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Conventionally, a microscopic particle that performs a reciprocal stroke cannot move through its environment. This is because at small scales, the response of simple Newtonian fluids is purely viscous and flows are time-reversible. We show that by contrast, fluid elasticity enables propulsion by reciprocal forcing that is otherwise impossible. We present experiments on rigid objects actuated reciprocally in viscous fluids, demonstrating for the first time a purely elastic propulsion set by the objects shape and boundary conditions. We describe two different artificial "swimmers" that experimentally realize this principle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number081703
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 16 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Fluid elasticity can enable propulsion at low Reynolds number'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this