Hydrodynamic interaction of two swimming model micro-organisms

Takuji Ishikawa, M. P. Simmonds, T. J. Pedley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

337 Citations (Scopus)


In order to understand the rheological and transport properties of a suspension of swimming micro-organisms, it is necessary to analyse the fluid-dynamical interaction of pairs of such swimming cells. In this paper, a swimming micro-organism is modelled as a squirming sphere with prescribed tangential surface velocity, referred to as a squirmer. The centre of mass of the sphere may be displaced from the geometric centre (bottom-heaviness). The effects of inertia and Brownian motion are neglected, because real micro-organisms swim at very low Reynolds numbers but are too large for Brownian effects to be important. The interaction of two squirmers is calculated analytically for the limits of small and large separations and is also calculated numerically using a boundary-element method. The analytical and the numerical results for the translational-rotational velocities and for the stresslet of two squirmers correspond very well. We sought to generate a database for an interacting pair of squirmers from which one can easily predict the motion of a collection of squirmers. The behaviour of two interacting squirmers is discussed phenomenologically, too. The results for the trajectories of two squirmers show that first the squirmers attract each other, then they change their orientation dramatically when they are in near contact and finally they separate from each other. The effect of bottom-heaviness is considerable. Restricting the trajectories to two dimensions is shown to give misleading results. Some movies of interacting squirmers are available with the online version of the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-160
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Dec
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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