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Phys Rev Lett. 2013 Aug 9;111(6):068101. Epub 2013 Aug 9.

Locomotion of helical bodies in viscoelastic fluids: enhanced swimming at large helical amplitudes.

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Department of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 480 Lincoln Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


The motion of a rotating helical body in a viscoelastic fluid is considered. In the case of force-free swimming, the introduction of viscoelasticity can either enhance or retard the swimming speed and locomotive efficiency, depending on the body geometry, fluid properties, and the body rotation rate. Numerical solutions of the Oldroyd-B equations show how previous theoretical predictions break down with increasing helical radius or with decreasing filament thickness. Helices of large pitch angle show an increase in swimming speed to a local maximum at a Deborah number of order unity. The numerical results show how the small-amplitude theoretical calculations connect smoothly to the large-amplitude experimental measurements.

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