Hydrodynamic instabilities in a 2-D sheet of microswimmers embedded in a 3-D fluid

Viktor Škultéty, Dóra Bárdfalvy, Joakim Stenhammar, Cesare Nardini, Alexander Morozov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A collection of microswimmers immersed in an incompressible fluid is characterised by strong interactions due to the long-range nature of the hydrodynamic fields generated by individual organisms. As a result, suspensions of rear-actuated `pusher' swimmers such as bacteria exhibit a collective motion state often referred to as `bacterial turbulence', characterised by large-scale chaotic flows. The onset of collective motion in pusher suspensions is classically understood within the framework of mean-field kinetic theories for dipolar swimmers. In bulk 2-D and 3-D, the theory predicts that the instability leading to bacterial turbulence is due to mutual swimmer reorientation and sets in at the largest length scale available to the suspension. Here, we construct a similar kinetic theory for the case of a dipolar microswimmer suspension restricted to a two-dimensional plane embedded in a three-dimensional incompressible fluid. This setting qualitatively mimics the effect of swimming close to a two-dimensional interface. We show that the in-plane flow fields are effectively compressible in spite of the incompressibility of the 3-D bulk fluid, and that microswimmers on average act as sources (pushers) or sinks (pullers). We analyse stability of the homogeneous and isotropic state, and find two types of instability that are qualitatively different from the bulk, three-dimensional case: First, we show that the analogue of the orientational pusher instability leading to bacterial turbulence in bulk systems instead occurs at the smallest length-scale available to the system. Second, an instability associated with density variations arises in puller suspensions as a generic consequence of the effective in-plane compressibility. We conclude that confinement can have a crucial role in determining the collective behaviour of microswimmer suspensions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA28
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date2 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cond-mat.soft
  • physics.flu-dyn


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