Meshfree and efficient modelling of swimming cells

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Locomotion in Stokes flow is an intensively-studied problem because it describes important bi- ological phenomena such as the motility of many species’ sperm, bacteria, algae and protozoa. Numerical computations can be challenging, particularly in three dimensions, due to the presence of moving boundaries and complex geometries; methods which combine ease-of-implementation and computational efficiency are therefore needed. A recently-proposed method to discretise the regularised Stokeslet boundary integral equation without the need for a connected ‘mesh’ is ap- plied to the inertialess locomotion problem in Stokes flow. The mathematical formulation and key aspects of the computational implementation in Matlab® /GNU Octave are described, followed by numerical experiments with biflagellate algae and multiple uniflagellate sperm swimming between no-slip surfaces, for which both swimming trajectories and flow fields are calculated. These compu- tational experiments required minutes of time on modest hardware; an extensible implementation is provided in a github repository. The nearest neighbour discretisation dramatically improves convergence and robustness, a key challenge in extending the regularised Stokeslet method to complicated, three dimensional, biological fluid problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number053101
Number of pages27
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2018


  • cell locomotion
  • biological fluid dynamics
  • collective behaviour
  • flows in microchannels
  • swiming


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