On the Dynamics of Magnetic Swimmers in Stokes Flow

In the past decade, the engineering community has conceived, manufactured and tested micro-swimmers, i.e. microscopic devices which can be steered in their intended environment. Foreseen applications range from microsurgery and targeted drug delivery to environmental decontamination. This thesis presents a mathematical analysis of the dynamics of rigid magnetic swimmers in a Stokes flow driven by an external uniform magnetic field that rotates steadily about its axis of rotation. The swimmer is assumed to be made of a permanent magnetic material and to be placed in a fluid that fills an infinite enveloping space. A specific swimmer is prescribed by its magnetic moment and mobility matrix. For a given swimmer, its dynamics depend on two parameters that can be changed during an experiment: the Mason number, related to the magnitude and angular speed of the magnetic field, and the conical angle between the magnetic field and its axis of rotation. As these two parameter vary, strikingly different regimes of responses occur. The swimmer's trajectory is entirely governed by its rotational dynamics: once its orientation dynamics are known, its position trajectory can be recovered. For neutrally buoyant swimmers, this work provides a complete classification of the steady states of the rotational dynamics, along with a study of non-steady solutions in the asymptotic limits of small and large Mason number, and small conical angle. Predicted out-of-equilibrium solutions are in good agreement with numerical simulations. Swimmer's trajectories corresponding to steady states and periodic solutions of the rotational dynamics are then recovered. Finally, the effect of buoyancy is taken into account, and the relative equilibria of swimmers with a different density than that of the fluid are determined when the axis of rotation of the magnetic field is aligned with gravity.

Maddocks, John
Lessinnes, Thomas Olivier D.
Lausanne, EPFL

 Record created 2019-08-29, last modified 2019-09-02

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