, 35:121
Date: 23 Nov 2012

Twisting and buckling: A new undulation mechanism for artificial swimmers

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Abstract

Among the various locomotion strategies of the animal kingdom, the undulation locomotion is of particular interest for biomimetic applications. In this paper, we present an artificial swimmer set into motion by a new and non-trivial undulation mechanism, based on the twisting and buckling of its body. The swimmer consists of a long cylinder of ferrogel which is polarized transversely and in opposite directions at each extremity. When it is placed on a water film and submitted to a transverse oscillating magnetic field, the worm-like swimmer undulates and swims. Whereas symmetry breaking is due to the field gradient, the undulations of the worm result from a torsional buckling instability as the polarized ends tend to align with the applied magnetic field. The critical magnetic field above which buckling and subsequent swimming is observed may be predicted using elasticity equations including the effect of the magnetic torque. As the length of the worm is varied, several undulation modes are observed which are in good agreement with the bending modes of an elastic rod with free ends.

Graphical abstract