Quiet swimming at low Reynolds number

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The stresslet provides a simple model of the flow created by a small, freely swimming and neutrally buoyant aquatic organism and shows that the far field fluid disturbance created by such an organism in general decays as one over distance squared. Here we discuss a quieter swimming mode that eliminates the stresslet component of the flow and leads to a faster spatial decay of the fluid disturbance described by a force quadrupole that decays as one over distance cubed. Motivated by recent experimental results on fluid disturbances due to small aquatic organisms, we demonstrate that a three-Stokeslet model of a swimming organism which uses breast stroke type kinematics is an example of such a quiet swimmer. We show that the fluid disturbance in both the near field and the far field is significantly reduced by appropriately arranging the propulsion apparatus, and we find that the far field power laws are valid surprisingly close to the organism. Finally, we discuss point force models as a general framework for hypothesis generation and experimental exploration of fluid mediated predator-prey interactions in the planktonic world.
Original languageEnglish
Article number042712
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number4
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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