Spermatozoa scattering by a microchannel feature: An elastohydrodynamic model

T. D. Montenegro-Johnson*, Hermes Gadelha, D. J. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sperm traverse their microenvironment through viscous fluid by propagating flagellar waves; the waveform emerges as a consequence of elastic structure, internal active moments and low Reynolds number fluid dynamics. Engineered microchannels have recently been proposed as a method of sorting and manipulating motile cells; the interaction of cells with these artificial environments therefore warrants investigation. A numerical method is presented for largeamplitude elastohydrodynamic interaction of active swimmers with domain features. This method is employed to examine hydrodynamic scattering by a model microchannel backstep feature. Scattering is shown to depend on backstep height and the relative strength of viscous and elastic forces in the flagellum. In a ‘high viscosity’ parameter regime corresponding to human sperm in cervical mucus analogue, this hydrodynamic contribution to scattering is comparable in magnitude to recent data on contact effects, being of the order of 5◦–10◦. Scattering can be positive or negative depending on the relative strength of viscous and elastic effects, emphasizing the importance of viscosity on the interaction of sperm with their microenvironment. The modulation of scattering angle by viscosity is associated with variations in flagellar asymmetry induced by the elastohydrodynamic interaction with the boundary feature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140475
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • Fluid–structure interaction
  • Human sperm
  • Stokesian swimming

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