Departmental Papers (MEAM)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:
X.N. Shen and P.E. Arratia. (2011). Undulatory Swimming in Viscoelastic Fluids Physical Review Letters 106, 208101.

© 2011 The American Physical Society


The effects of fluid elasticity on the swimming behavior of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are experimentally investigated by tracking the nematode’s motion and measuring the corresponding velocity fields. We find that fluid elasticity hinders self-propulsion. Compared to Newtonian solutions, fluid elasticity leads to up to 35% slower propulsion. Furthermore, self-propulsion decreases as elastic stresses grow in magnitude in the fluid. This decrease in self-propulsion in viscoelastic fluids is related to the stretching of flexible molecules near hyperbolic points in the flow.



Date Posted: 19 May 2011

This document has been peer reviewed.