Purcell's three-link microswimmer based on IPMC: Simulations in COMSOL Multiphysics



Flexible, IPMC, Link, Microswimmer, Motion, Non-reciprocal, Purcell


One of the few possible mechanisms for self-propulsion at low Reynolds number (henceforth, $Re$) is undulations of an elastic tail, as proposed in the classical work of Purcell in 1977. This paper studies this effect by investigating a variant of Purcell’s three-link swimmer model where the lateral links are flexible, specifically fabricated by ionic polymer metal composite (IPMC), by means of simulations in COMSOL Multiphysics. Firstly, a model of the material is developed in COMSOL and simulated in comparison with results that can be found in the literature. The proposed model presents some benefits against other existing models: 1) it allows actuator displacement, so it can be integrated in the model of a mobile robot; 2) it satisfies Euler-Bernoulli theorem; and 3) it incorporates the interaction of the actuator with a fluid in which the robot is immersed. Based on this model, a Purcell's three-link microswimmer is built whose lateral links are of IPMC within a fluid under low Re conditions. The displacement of the robot is analyzed for one of the classical primitives of motion, namely, the circular primitive. The results demonstrate that the swimmer is able to perform a non-reciprocal motion and, consequently, propel itself within the fluid.


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Author Biographies

Andrés J. Serrano, Industrial Engineering School, University of Extremadura

Andrés Serrano received his B.E. degree in Electronics and Automation Engineering (Industrial Branch) from the University of Extremadura, in 2020. His final project was based on modeling and simulation of three-link microswimmer made of IPMC actuators.

Cristina Nuevo-Gallardo, University of Extremadura

Cristina Nuevo-Gallardo received her B.E. degree in Industrial Mechanical Engineering and her
M.E. degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Extremadura, Badajoz, in 2015 and 2017, respectively. She is currently pursuing her PhD on development and control of artificial bacterial flagellum type swimming microrobots for medical applications.

José Emilio Traver, University of Extremadura

José Emilio Traver received his B.E. degree in Industrial Electronics Engineering and Automation and his M.E. degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Extremadura, Badajoz, in 2015 and 2017, respectively. He is currently pursuing his PhD on study of artificial eukaryotic flagellum type swimming microrobots for medical applications.

Inés Tejado, University of Extremadura

Inés Tejado received the B.E., M.E., and Ph.D. degrees, the last ones with honor, in Electronic Engineering from the University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain, in 2003, 2006, and 2011, respectively. She was with the Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon, Portugal) as a postdoctoral researcher for 13 months during 2012 and 2013. Since December 2013, Dr. Tejado is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Electrical, Electronic Engineering, and Automation at the University of Extremadura. Dr. Tejado has been working on fractional-order control for more than 15 years and has authored/coauthored over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, and conference proceedings on such a topic. Likewise, she was involved in more than 10 research projects in such a field. Apart from that topic, her current interests lie in robotics for medical applications and advances in engineering education.

Blas M. Vinagre, University of Extremadura

Blas M. Vinagre received the M.S. degree in Telecommunications Engineering from Technical University
of Madrid, Madrid, Spain, in 1985. He worked in industry from 1985 to 1994, mainly in communications, automation and electronic war. In 1994 he joined the University of Extremadura as an Assistant Professor. In 2001 he received the Ph.D. degree from the National University of Distant Learning, Madrid, Spain. From 2001 to 2016 he has been an Associate Professor in the Department of Electric, Electronic and Automation Engineering, where he is now Full Professor of Automatic Control.
His research interest focuses on the applications of fractional calculus in Automatic Control and Robotics, including microrobotics for medical applications. He is senior member of IEEE.


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How to Cite

Serrano, A. J., Nuevo-Gallardo, C., Traver, J. E., Tejado, I., & Vinagre, B. M. (2021). Purcell’s three-link microswimmer based on IPMC: Simulations in COMSOL Multiphysics. IEEE Latin America Transactions, 20(3), 474–480. Retrieved from https://latamt.ieeer9.org/index.php/transactions/article/view/5871