Geometric visualization of self-propulsion in a complex medium

Phys Rev Lett. 2013 Feb 15;110(7):078101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.078101. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


Combining geometric mechanics theory, laboratory robotic experiment, and numerical simulation, we study the locomotion in granular media of the simplest noninertial swimmer, the Purcell three-link swimmer. Using granular resistive force laws as inputs, the theory relates translation and rotation of the body to shape changes (movements of the links). This allows analysis, visualization, and prediction of effective movements that are verified by experiment. The geometric approach also facilitates comparison between swimming in granular media and in viscous fluids.