Kinematics of the swimming of spiroplasma

Jing Yang, Charles W. Wolgemuth, Greg Huber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Spiroplasma swimming is studied with a simple model based on resistive-force theory. Specifically, we consider a bacterium shaped in the form of a helix that propagates traveling-wave distortions which flip the handedness of the helical cell body. We treat cell length, pitch angle, kink velocity, and distance between kinks as parameters and calculate the swimming velocity that arises due to the distortions. We find that, for a fixed pitch angle, scaling collapses the swimming velocity (and the swimming efficiency) to a universal curve that depends only on the ratio of the distance between kinks to the cell length. Simultaneously optimizing the swimming efficiency with respect to interkink length and pitch angle, we find that the optimal pitch angle is 35.5° and the optimal interkink length ratio is 0.338, values in good agreement with experimental observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number218102
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 26 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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