Rotational propulsion enabled by inertia
The fluid mechanics of small-scale locomotion has recently attracted considerable attention, due to its importance in cell motility and the design of artificial micro-swimmers for biomedical applications. Most studies on the topic consider the ideal limit of zero Reynolds number. In this paper, we investigate a simple propulsion mechanism --an up-down asymmetric dumbbell rotating about its axis of symmetry-- unable to propel in the absence of inertia in a Newtonian fluid. Inertial forces lead to continuous propulsion for all finite values of the Reynolds number. We study computationally its propulsive characteristics as well as analytically in the small-Reynolds-number limit. We also derive the optimal dumbbell geometry. The direction of propulsion enabled by inertia is opposite to that induced by viscoelasticity.