Viscous pumping inspired by flexible propulsion Article uri icon


  • Fluid-suspended microorganisms have evolved different swimming and feeding strategies in order to cope with an environment dominated by viscous effects. For instance, ciliated organisms rely on the collective motion of flexible appendages to move and feed. By performing a non-reciprocal motion, flexible filaments can produce a net propulsive force, or pump fluid, in the absence of inertia. Inspired by such a fundamental concept, we propose a strategy to produce macroscopic pumping and mixing in creeping flow. We measured experimentally the net motion of a Newtonian viscous fluid induced by the reciprocal motion of a flapper. When the flapper is rigid no net motion is induced. In contrast, when the flapper is made of a flexible material, a net fluid pumping is measured. We quantify the effectiveness of this pumping strategy and show that optimal pumping is achieved when the length of the flapper is on the same order as the elasto-hydrodynamic penetration length. We finally discuss the possible applications of flexible impellers in mixing operations at low Reynolds numbers. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd.

publication date

  • 2014-01-01