The European Physical Journal E

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 493–500 | Cite as

Synchronization of rotating helices by hydrodynamic interactions

  • M. Reichert
  • H. Stark
Original Article


Some types of bacteria use rotating helical flagella to swim. The motion of such organisms takes place in the regime of low Reynolds numbers where viscous effects dominate and where the dynamics is governed by hydrodynamic interactions. Typically, rotating flagella form bundles, which means that their rotation is synchronized. The aim of this study is to investigate whether hydrodynamic interactions can be at the origin of such a bundling and synchronization. We consider two stiff helices that are modelled by rigidly connected beads, neglecting any elastic deformations. They are driven by constant and equal torques, and they are fixed in space by anchoring their terminal beads in harmonic traps. We observe that, for finite trap strength, hydrodynamic interactions do indeed synchronize the helix rotations. The speed of phase synchronization decreases with increasing trap stiffness. In the limit of infinite trap stiffness, the speed is zero and the helices do not synchronize.


05.45.Xt Synchronization; coupled oscillations 47.15.Gf Low-Reynolds-number (creeping) flows 87.16.Qp Pseudopods, lamellipods, cilia, and flagella 87.19.St Movement and locomotion 


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Supplementary material

strong_trap.mpg (1.3 mb)
Supplementary material
weak_trap.mpg (1.3 mb)
Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fachbereich PhysikUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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