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Section: Application Domains

Swimming at low-Reynolds number

Participants : Bernard Bonnard, Yacine El Alaoui-Faris, Laetitia Giraldi, Clément Moreau, Alice Nolot, Jean-Baptiste Pomet, Jérémy Rouot, Karine Sérier.

Following the historical reference for low Reynolds number locomotion [71], the study of the swimming strategies of micro-organisms is attracting increasing attention in the recent literature. This is both because of the intrinsic biological interest, and for the possible implications these studies may have on the design of bio-inspired artificial replicas reproducing the functionalities of biological systems. In the case of micro-swimmers, the surrounding fluid is dominated by the viscosity effects of the water and becomes reversible. In this regime, it turns out that the infinite dimensional dynamics of the fluid do not have to be retained as state variables, so that the dynamics of a micro-swimmer can be expressed by ordinary differential equations if its shape has a finite number of degrees of freedom. Assuming this finite dimension, and if the control is the rate of deformation, one obtains a control system that is linear (affine without drift) with respect to the controls, i.e. the optimal control problem with a quadratic cost defines a sub-Riemannian structure (see section 3.2.3). This is the case where the shape is “fully actuated”, i.e. if all the variables describing the shape are angles, there is an actuator on each of these angles. For artificial micro-swimmers, this is usually unrealistic, hence (artificial) magneto-elastic micro-swimmers, that are magnetized in order to be deformed by an external magnetic field. In this case, the control functions are the external magnetic field.

In both cases, questions are controllability (straightforward in the fully actuated case), optimal control, possibly path planning. We collaborate with teams that have physical experiments for both.

The questions about optimality of periodic controls raised in section 3.2.5 are related to these applications for periodic deformations, or strokes, playan important role in locomotion.