Purcell's "rotator": Mechanical rotation at low Reynolds number

R. Dreyfus, J. Baudry, H. A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


An object consisting of three spheres, linked like the spokes on a wheel, can undergo a net rotational movement when the relative positions of the spheres proceed through a four-step cycle. This rotational motion is the analogue of the two-hinged swimmer originally proposed by Purcell (1977), which has served as a prototype for mechanical implementations of swimming. We also note that the rotational motion analysed here may be useful in the design of micromachines and has similarities to molecular-scale rotational motors that have been identified recently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-164
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Physical Journal B
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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