The Long-Time Dynamics of Two Hydrodynamically-Coupled Swimming Cells
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The Long-Time Dynamics of Two Hydrodynamically-Coupled Swimming Cells


Swimming microorganisms such as bacteria or spermatozoa are typically found in dense suspensions, and exhibit collective modes of locomotion qualitatively different from that displayed by isolated cells. In the dilute limit where fluid-mediated interactions can be treated rigorously, the long-time hydrodynamics of a collection of cells result from interactions with many other cells, and as such typically eludes an analytical approach. Here, we consider the only case where such problem can be treated rigorously analytically, namely when the cells have spatially confined trajectories, such as the spermatozoa of some marine invertebrates. We consider two spherical cells swimming, when isolated, with arbitrary circular trajectories, and derive the long-time kinematics of their relative locomotion. We show that in the dilute limit where the cells are much further away than their size, and the size of their circular motion, a separation of time scale occurs between a fast (intrinsic) swimming time, and a slow time where hydrodynamic interactions lead to change in the relative position and orientation of the swimmers. We perform a multiple-scale analysis and derive the effective dynamical system—of dimension two—describing the long-time behavior of the pair of cells. We show that the system displays one type of equilibrium, and two types of rotational equilibrium, all of which are found to be unstable. A detailed mathematical analysis of the dynamical systems further allows us to show that only two cell-cell behaviors are possible in the limit of t→∞, either the cells are attracted to each other (possibly monotonically), or they are repelled (possibly monotonically as well), which we confirm with numerical computations. Our analysis shows therefore that, even in the dilute limit, hydrodynamic interactions lead to new modes of cell-cell locomotion.

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