Swimming of spermatozoa in a Maxwell fluid

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11 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that the swimming mechanism used by spermatozoa could be adopted for self-propelled micro-robots in small environments and potentially applied to biomedical engineering. Mammalian sperm cells must swim through a viscoelastic mucus layer to find the egg cell. Thus, understanding how sperm cells swim through viscoelastic liquids is significant not only for physiology, but also for the design of micro-robots. In this paper, we developed a numerical model of a sperm cell in a linear Maxwell fluid based on the boundary element slender-body theory coupling method. The viscoelastic properties were characterized by the Deborah number (De), and we found that, under the prescribed waveform, the swimming speed decayed with the Deborah number in the small-De regime (De < 1.0). The swimming efficiency was independent of the Deborah number, and the decrease in the swimming speed was not significantly affected by the wave pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Article number78
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 24


  • Spermatozoa
  • Stokes flow
  • Viscoelastic fluid


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