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Title: A theory of pitch for the hydrodynamic properties of molecules, helices, and achiral swimmers at low Reynolds number

We present a theory for pitch, a matrix property that is linked to the coupling of rotational and translational motion of rigid bodies at low Reynolds numbers. The pitch matrix is a geometric property of objects in contact with a surrounding fluid, and it can be decomposed into three principal axes of pitch and their associated moments of pitch. The moments of pitch predict the translational motion in a direction parallel to each pitch axis when the object is rotated around that axis and can be used to explain translational drift, particularly for rotating helices. We also provide a symmetrized boundary element model for blocks of the resistance tensor, allowing calculation of the pitch matrix for arbitrary rigid bodies. We analyze a range of chiral objects, including chiral molecules and helices. Chiral objects with a Cn symmetry axis with n > 2 show additional symmetries in their pitch matrices. We also show that some achiral objects have non-vanishing pitch matrices, and we use this result to explain recent observations of achiral microswimmers. We also discuss the small but non-zero pitch of Lord Kelvin’s isotropic helicoid.

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Publisher / Repository:
American Institute of Physics
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Journal of Chemical Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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