Theory of swimming filaments in viscoelastic media

Henry C. Fu, Thomas R. Powers, Charles W. Wolgemuth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Motivated by our desire to understand the biophysical mechanisms underlying the swimming of sperm in the non-Newtonian fluids of the female mammalian reproductive tract, we examine the swimming of filaments in the nonlinear viscoelastic upper convected Maxwell model. We obtain the swimming velocity and hydrodynamic force exerted on an infinitely long cylinder with prescribed beating pattern. We use these results to examine the swimming of a simplified sliding-filament model for a sperm flagellum. Viscoelasticity tends to decrease swimming speed, and changes in the beating patterns due to viscoelasticity can reverse swimming direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number258101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 19 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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