Forward and inverse problems in the mechanics of soft filaments

M. Gazzola, L. H. Dudte, A. G. McCormick, L. Mahadevan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Soft slender structures are ubiquitous in natural and artificial systems, in active and passive settings and across scales, from polymers and flagella, to snakes and space tethers. In this paper, we demonstrate the use of a simple and practical numerical implementation based on the Cosserat rod model to simulate the dynamics of filaments that can bend, twist, stretch and shear while interacting with complex environments via muscular activity, surface contact, friction and hydrodynamics. We validate our simulations by solving a number of forward problems involving the mechanics of passive filaments and comparing them with known analytical results, and extend them to study instabilities in stretched and twisted filaments that form solenoidal and plectonemic structures. We then study active filaments such as snakes and other slender organisms by solving inverse problems to identify optimal gaits for limbless locomotion on solid surfaces and in bulk liquids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number171628
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 13 2018


  • Computational mechanics
  • Cosserat theory
  • Soft filaments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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