Swimming direction reversal of flagella through ciliary motion of mastigonemes

S. Namdeo*, S. N. Khaderi, J. M. J. den Toonder, P. R. Onck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
288 Downloads (Pure)


Bio-inspired designs can provide an answer to engineering problems such as swimming strategies at the micron or nano-scale. Scientists are now designing artificial micro-swimmers that can mimic flagella-powered swimming of micro-organisms. In an application such as lab-on-a-chip in which micro-object manipulation in small flow geometries could be achieved by micro-swimmers, control of the swimming direction becomes an important aspect for retrieval and control of the micro-swimmer. A bio-inspired approach for swimming direction reversal (a flagellum bearing mastigonemes) can be used to design such a system and is being explored in the present work. We analyze the system using a computational framework in which the equations of solid mechanics and fluid dynamics are solved simultaneously. The fluid dynamics of Stokes flow is represented by a 2D Stokeslets approach while the solid mechanics behavior is realized using Euler-Bernoulli beam elements. The working principle of a flagellum bearing mastigonemes can be broken up into two parts: (1) the contribution of the base flagellum and (2) the contribution of mastigonemes, which act like cilia. These contributions are counteractive, and the net motion (velocity and direction) is a superposition of the two. In the present work, we also perform a dimensional analysis to understand the underlying physics associated with the system parameters such as the height of the mastigonemes, the number of mastigonemes, the flagellar wave length and amplitude, the flagellum length, and mastigonemes rigidity. Our results provide fundamental physical insight on the swimming of a flagellum with mastigonemes, and it provides guidelines for the design of artificial flagellar systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number034108
Pages (from-to)034108-1-034108-15
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2011


  • bio-inspired materials
  • bioMEMS
  • cell motility
  • lab-on-a-chip
  • microfluidics
  • microorganisms
  • physiological models

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