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Phoretic self-propulsion at finite Péclet numbers

  • Sébastien Michelin (a1) and Eric Lauga (a2)

Phoretic self-propulsion is a unique example of force- and torque-free motion on small scales. The classical framework describing the flow field around a particle swimming by self-diffusiophoresis neglects the advection of the solute field by the flow and assumes that the chemical interaction layer is thin compared to the particle size. In this paper we quantify and characterize the effect of solute advection on the phoretic swimming of a sphere. We first rigorously derive the regime of validity of the thin-interaction-layer assumption at finite values of the Péclet number ( ${Pe}$ ). Under this assumption, we solve computationally the flow around Janus phoretic particles and examine the impact of solute advection on propulsion and the flow created by the particle. We demonstrate that although advection always leads to a decrease of the swimming speed and flow stresslet at high values of the Péclet number, an increase can be obtained at intermediate values of ${Pe}$ . This possible enhancement of swimming depends critically on the nature of the chemical interactions between the solute and the surface. We then derive an asymptotic analysis of the problem at small ${Pe}$ which allows us to rationalize our computational results. Our computational and theoretical analysis is accompanied by a parallel study of the influence of reactive effects at the surface of the particle (Damköhler number) on swimming.

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