Minimizing hydraulic resistance of a plant root by shape optimization

Sriram Chandrashekar, Kangping Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Optimum plant root structure that minimizes a single root's hydraulic resistance to water-uptake is studied in this paper with the constraint of constant root volume. Hydraulic resistances under the slender body approximation and without such a limitation are considered. It is found that for large stele-to-cortex permeability ratio, there exists an optimum root length-to-base-radius ratio that minimizes the hydraulic resistance. A remarkable feature of the optimum root structure is that the optimum dimensionless stele conductivity depends only on a single geometrical parameter, the stele-to-root base-radius ratio. Once the stele-to-root base-radius ratio and the stele-to-cortex permeability ratio are given, the optimum root length-to-radius ratio can be found. While these findings remain to be verified by experiments for real plant roots, they offer theoretical guidance for the design of bio-inspired structures that minimize the hydraulic resistance for fluid production from porous media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-48
Number of pages5
JournalMechanics Research Communications
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Hydraulic resistance
  • Optimum root structure
  • Porous media flow
  • Root water uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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