Swimming through spherical shell buckling

Abstract : Microswimmers, and among them aspirant microrobots, are generally bound to cope with flows where viscous forces are dominant, characterized by a low Reynolds number (Re). This implies constraints on the possible sequences of body motion, which have to be nonreciprocal. Furthermore, the presence of a strong drag limits the range of resulting velocities.Here, we propose a swimming mechanism which uses the buckling instability triggered by pressure waves to propel a spherical hollow shell. The particularity of this mechanism is that it fulfills naturally the necessary condition of swimming at low Re. In addition, the swiftness of the instability might produce inertial effects even at the microscopic scale.With a macroscopic experimental model we show that a net displacement is produced at all Re regimes. We put in evidence the role of geometrical parameters, shell material properties and rheology of the surrounding fluid on the swimming efficiency.An optimal displacement is reached at intermediate Re. Using time-resolved PIV measurements, we explain that non-trivial history effects take place during the instability and enhance net displacement.Using a simple model, derived from the study of shell dynamics, we show that due to the fast activation induced by the instability, this regime is reachable by microscopic shells. The rapid dynamics would also allow high frequency excitation with standard traveling ultrasonic waves. Scale considerations predict a swimming velocity of order 1 cm/s for a remote controlled microrobot, a suitable value for biological applications such as drug delivery.
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Abderrahmane Djellouli. Swimming through spherical shell buckling. Soft Condensed Matter [cond-mat.soft]. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017GREAY043⟩. ⟨tel-01708132⟩

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