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Biorheology. 1998 Jul-Oct;35(4-5):295-309.

Swimming of spermatozoa in a linear viscoelastic fluid.

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School of Mathematics and Statistics, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, ACT, Australia.


A modified resistive force theory is developed for a spermatozoon swimming in a general linear viscoelastic fluid. The theory is based on a Fourier decomposition of the flagellar velocity, which leads to solving the Stokes flow equations with a complex viscosity. We use a model spermatozoon with a spherical head which propagates small amplitude sinusoidal waves along its flagellum. Results are obtained for the velocity of propulsion and the rate of working for a free swimming spermatozoon and the thrust on a fixed spermatozoon. There is no change in propulsive velocity for a viscoelastic fluid compared to a Newtonian fluid. The rate of working does change however, decreasing with increasing elasticity of the fluid, for a Maxwell fluid. Thus the theory predicts that a spermatozoon can swim faster in a Maxwell fluid with the same expenditure of energy for a Newtonian fluid.

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