A thermodynamic efficiency for Stokesian swimming

Stephen Childress

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Since free Stokesian swimming does no work external to fluid and body, the classical thermodynamic efficiency of this activity is zero. This paper introduces a potential thermodynamic efficiency by partially tethering the body so that work is done externally and instantaneously. We compare the resulting efficiency with other definitions utilized in Stokes flow, extend the instantaneous definition to encompass a full swimming stroke, and compute it for propulsion of a spherical body by a helical flagellum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-97
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - 25 Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Stokesian dynamics
  • micro-organism dynamics
  • swimming/flying


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