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Two-Sphere Swimmer

The mechanism by which self-propulsion through a fluid is achieved has fascinated scientists of many disciplines, and the public alike, for aesthetic, practical, and fundamental scientific reasons.

Researchers in the Klotsa Group have performed experiments and simulations demonstrating the propulsion of a neutrally buoyant swimmer that consists of a pair of spheres attached by a spring, immersed in a vibrating fluid. The vibration of the fluid induces relative motion of the spheres which, for sufficiently large amplitudes, can lead to motion of the center of mass of the two spheres.

They found that the swimming speed obtained from both experiment and simulation agree and collapse onto a single curve if plotted as a function of the streaming Reynolds number, suggesting that the propulsion is related to streaming flows. There appears to be a critical onset value of the streaming Reynolds number for swimming to occur. A change in the streaming flows is shown as the Reynolds number increases, from that generated by two independent oscillating spheres to a collective flow pattern around the swimmer as a whole. The mechanism for swimming is traced to a strengthening of a jet of fluid in the wake of the swimmer.