Trapping of swimmers in a vortex lattice.Chaos. 2020 Jun; 30(6):063121.C
We examine the motion of rigid, ellipsoidal swimmers subjected to a steady vortex flow in two dimensions. Numerical simulations of swimmers in a spatially periodic array of vortices reveal a range of possible behaviors, including trapping inside a single vortex and motility-induced diffusion across many vortices. While the trapping probability vanishes at a sufficiently high swimming speed, we find that it exhibits surprisingly large oscillations as this critical swimming speed is approached. Strikingly, at even higher swimming speeds, we find swimmers that swim perpendicular to their elongation direction can again become trapped. To explain this complex behavior, we investigate the underlying swimmer phase-space geometry. We identify the fixed points and periodic orbits of the swimmer equations of motion that regulate swimmer trapping inside a single vortex cell. For low to intermediate swimming speeds, we find that a stable periodic orbit surrounded by invariant tori forms a transport barrier to swimmers and can trap them inside individual vortices. For swimming speeds approaching the maximum fluid speed, we find instead that perpendicular swimmers can be trapped by asymptotically stable fixed points. A bifurcation analysis of the stable periodic orbit and the fixed points explains the complex and non-monotonic breakdown and re-emergence of swimmer trapping as the swimmer speed and shape are varied.