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  • Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Volume 702
  • July 2012, pp. 286-297

Unsteady swimming of small organisms

  • S. Wang (a1) and A. M. Ardekani (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2012

Small planktonic organisms ubiquitously display unsteady or impulsive motion to attack a prey or escape a predator in natural environments. Despite this, the role of unsteady forces such as history and added mass forces on the low-Reynolds-number propulsion of small organisms, e.g. Paramecium, is poorly understood. In this paper, we derive the fundamental equation of motion for an organism swimming by means of the surface distortion in a non-uniform background flow field at a low-Reynolds-number regime. We show that the history and added mass forces are important as the product of Reynolds number and Strouhal number increases above unity. Our results for an unsteady squirmer show that unsteady inertial effects can lead to a non-zero mean velocity for the cases with zero streaming parameters, which have zero mean velocity in the absence of inertia.

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