Development of a Low-Reynolds Swimmer

Open Access
Li, Kevin R
Area of Honors:
Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Paris VonLockette, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sean Brennan, Honors Advisor
  • Low Reynolds
  • Swimmer
  • magnet
Low-Reynolds swimming describes the method of displacement in the limit of low Reynolds number. These conditions exist due to a combination of very small lengths, very low velocities, or very high kinematic viscosities. It is in these conditions that many micro-organisms exist. A great deal of research has been done to examine the hydrodynamics of these creatures. This paper focuses on creating and testing two different low Reynolds swimmers. The first swimmer resembles a fish and utilizes an accordion structure embedded with hard magnets to drive the swimmer forward. The second swimmer is an auger-based geometry attached to a pair of coupled magnets. The swimmers were fabricated and tested in a pool of viscous fluid and an external magnetic field was applied. The swimmers were placed in a container of glycerin (a liquid with relatively high kinematic viscosity) in order to simulate low-Reynolds conditions. The container was put in between 2 poles of an electromagnet and the external field was varied between +200mT and -200mT. From the experiment, the swimmer’s ability to displace was analyzed.