Monday, October 17, 2011: 1:15 PM
101 D (Minneapolis Convention Center)
Many microorganisms have evolved within complex fluids, including soil, intestinal fluid, and human mucus. In this talk, the effects of fluid elasticity on the swimming behavior of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are experimentally investigated by tracking the nematode's motion and measuring the corresponding velocity fields. We find that fluid elasticity hinders self-propulsion. Compared to Newtonian solutions, fluid elasticity leads to up to 35% slower propulsion speed. Furthermore, self-propulsion decreases as elastic stresses grow in magnitude in the fluid. This decrease in self-propulsion in viscoelastic fluids is related to the stretching of flexible molecules near hyperbolic points in the flow.