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|Micropipette Deflection Experiments on the Nematode C. elegans
|Physics and Astronomy
|Micropipette deflection;C. elegans;microswimmer;locomotion
|This thesis describes the use of a micropipette deflection technique to measure the viscous forces experienced by the millimeter sized undulatory swimmer and model organism C. elegans. Using a specialized pipette, we are able to simultaneously measure both the lateral and propulsive forces acting on the worm. We find that the measured force curves are well described by Resistive Force Theory, which is a low Reynolds number hydrodynamic model. This work constitutes the first justification of its applicability at Reynolds numbers of this magnitude (roughly 0.1). Through our comparison with Resistive Force Theory, we extract the worm's drag coefficients, which are in agreement with an existing theoretical prediction. Through a simple scaling argument, we obtain a relationship between the size of the worm and the typical viscous forces, which is in good agreement with our data. We also present a study aimed at measuring how the hydrodynamic forces on the worm change in proximity to solid boundaries. Using micropipette deflection, forces are measured at controlled distances from a single planar boundary and midway in between two parallel boundaries. We find the viscous forces and drag coefficients to increase significantly as the worm approaches a boundary. We find a constant value for the ratio of normal to tangential drag coefficients at all distances from a single boundary, but measure it to increase significantly as the worm is confined between two boundaries. In addition, the worm is seen to undergo a continuous gait modulation, primarily characterized by a decreased swimming amplitude, as it is subject to larger drag forces in confinement. Finally, the interactions between two worms swimming nearby one another are probed. Worms are held adjacent to one another using micropipettes, and are found to tangle with each other, rather than interact hydrodynamically. We develop simple models that well capture the onset and probability of tangles as a function of the separation distance between the worms.
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