Analysis of Underactuated Dynamic Locomotion Systems Using Perturbation Expansion: The Twistcar Toy Example
This work studies the motion of Purcell's three-link microswimmer in viscous flow, by using perturbation expansion of its dynamics under small-amplitude strokes. Explicit leading-order expressions and next-order correction terms for the displacement of the swimmer are obtained for the cases of a square or circular gait in the plane of joint angles. The correction terms demonstrate the reversal in movement direction for large stroke amplitudes, which has previously only been shown numerically. In addition, asymptotic expressions for Lighthill's energetic efficiency are obtained for both gaits. These approximations enable calculating optimal stroke amplitudes and swimmer's geometry (i.e. ratio of links' lengths) for maximizing either net displacement or Lighthill's efficiency.