Swimming patterns of a polarly flagellated bacterium in environments of increasing complexity
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The natural habitat of many bacterial swimmers is dominated by interfaces and narrow interstitial spacings where they frequently interact with the fluid boundaries in their vicinity. To quantify these interactions, we investigated the swimming behavior of the soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida in a variety of confined environments. Using microfluidic techniques, we fabricated structured microchannels with different configurations of cylindrical obstacles. In these environments, we analyzed the swimming trajectories for different obstacle densities and arrangements. Although the overall swimming pattern remained similar to movement in the bulk fluid, we observed a change in the turning angle distribution that could be attributed to collisions with the cylindrical obstacles. Furthermore, a comparison of the mean run length of the bacteria to the mean free path of a billiard particle in the same geometry indicated that, inside a densely packed environment, the trajectories of the bacterial swimmers are efficiently guided along the open spacings.
KeywordsEuropean Physical Journal Special Topic Swimming Speed Channel Height Free Path Length Obstacle Distance
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