Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2021.


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

On Shun Pak


The use of microswimmers, or microscopic swimming robots, in the medical field is becoming more sought after for applications such as targeted drug delivery and microsurgery. While such microswimmers do not yet exist for use on patients, many researchers are working on this front to make them a reality. One of the main challenges in making these microswimmers a reality is creating propulsion in a low Reynolds number environment. This project aims to create and test a prototype of a swimmer which employs 3D circular movement of its tail for propulsion in a very viscous fluid, mimicking a low Reynolds environment in the macroscale. To create a successful proof of concept of 3D circular propulsion, simulations, prototyping, and experimental evaluation of the prototype were conducted during the course of this project. Finite element analysis using the commercial software COMSOL was conducted to design a swimmer tail that would generate a positive thrust force, and a velocity at an order of magnitude consistent with the analytical prediction. Guided by the simulation results, a prototype was fully realized, and testing was conducted resulting in a speed of 0.5 mm/s, which matched with the order of magnitude of the speed obtained from the simulations. The data collected from testing accompanied by simulations confirmed our proof of concept. Lastly, additional simulations were performed to find optimal parameters that can be implemented in the swimmer design for future testing. In essence, this report will provide an overview of the design, construction, and testing of a scaled-up experimental platform to examine the principle of elastic propulsion in highly viscous fluid.