Hydrodynamic phase-locking of swimming microorganisms

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Elfring, Gwynn J.
Lauga, Eric
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Abstract
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Some microorganisms, such as spermatozoa, synchronize their flagella when swimming in close proximity. Using a simplified model (two infinite, parallel, two-dimensional waving sheets), we show that phase-locking arises from hydrodynamics forces alone, and has its origin in the front-back asymmetry of the geometry of their flagellar waveform. The time-evolution of the phase difference between co-swimming cells depends only on the nature of this geometrical asymmetry, and microorganisms can phase-lock into conformations which minimize or maximize energy dissipation.
Keywords
Physics - Biological Physics, Condensed Matter - Soft Condensed Matter, Physics - Fluid Dynamics
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