Measurements of Drag Coefficients and Rotation Rates of Free-Falling Helixes

  • Abdulrhaman A. Al-Omari

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The motion of bacteria in the environment is relevant to several fields. At very small scales and with simple helical shapes, we are able to describe experimentally and mathematically the motion of solid spirals falling freely within a liquid pool. Using these shapes we intend to mimic the motion of bacteria called Spirochetes. We seek to experimentally investigate the linear and the rotational motion of such shapes. A better understanding of the dynamics of this process will be practical not only on engineering and physics, but the bioscience and environmental as well. In the following pages, we explore the role of the shape on the motion of passive solid helixes in different liquids. We fabricate three solid helical shapes and drop them under gravity in water, glycerol and a mixture of 30% glycerol in water. That generated rotation due to helical angle in water. However, we observe the rotation disappear in glycerol. The movement of the solid helical shapes is imaged using a high-speed video camera. Then, the images are analyzed using the supplied software and a computer. Using these simultaneous measurements, we examine the terminal velocity of solid helical shapes. Using this information we computed the drag coefficient and the drag force. We obtain the helical angular velocity and the torque applied to the solid. The results of this study will allow us to more accurately predict the motion of solid helical shape. This analysis will also shed light onto biological questions of bacteria movement.
Date of AwardMay 2016
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorSigurdur Thoroddsen (Supervisor)


  • Drag Coefficients
  • Rotation Rates
  • Spiral

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