Section: Application Domains
Swimming at lowReynolds number
Participants : Bernard Bonnard, Yacine El AlaouiFaris, Laetitia Giraldi, Clément Moreau, Alice Nolot, JeanBaptiste Pomet, Jérémy Rouot.
Following the historical reference for low Reynolds number locomotion [72], the study of the swimming strategies of microorganisms is attracting increasing attention in the recent literature.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 bioinspired artificial replicas reproducing the functionalities of biological systems. In the case of microswimmers, 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 microswimmer 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 subRiemannian structure (see section 3.2). 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 microswimmers, this is usually unrealistic, hence (artificial) magnetoelastic microswimmers, 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.

In collaboration with D. Takagi and M. Chyba (Univ of Hawaii), this approach is currently at the experimental level for copepodlike swimmer at the university of Hawaii: on the one hand, this zooplankton and its locomotion can be observed, and a robot micro swimmer mimicking a copepod has been constructed, but in fact large enough for direct actuation to be possible, and the low Reynolds number is achieved by using a more viscous fluid. This gives possibilities, through an inverse optimization problem, to determine what cost can be optimised by these crustaceans, see [40], [78], and to validate models on the robot.

For magnetoelastic microrobots, Y. ElAlaoui's PhD is coadvised with Stéphane Régnier from the robotics lab ISIR, Univ. Paris 6. Magnetoelastic microrobots and their magnetic actuation are actually built at ISIR and the aim of the collaboration is to validate models and improve the existing control laws both in performance and in energy; of course, the micro scale does make things difficult.
The questions about optimality of periodic controls raised in section 3.2 are related to these applications for periodic deformations, or strokes, playan important role in locomotion.