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Colloids in a bacterial bath: simulations and experiments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5228-5238
Number of pages11
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 2011


We present a joint experimental and computational study of the effect of bacterial motion on micron-scale colloids contained in a two-dimensional suspension of Bacillus subtilis. With respect to previous work using E. coli, here we introduce a novel experimental set-up that allows us to realise a two-dimensional bacterial suspension insensitive to either evaporation or fluid flow. By analysing the mean square displacements of both bacteria and colloids, we confirm the existence of a crossover from super-diffusive behaviour at short time scales to normal diffusion at longer times. We also study the same two-dimensional system by means of numerical simulations, using a suspension of self-propelled dumbbells or the Vicsek model, which has been previously used to study the dynamics of active particles. Our numerical results obtained with both models are in broad agreement with the experimental trends, but only the dumbbell simulations can match the experimental data quantitatively. The level of agreement we find suggest that steric interactions due to collisions are important players in determining collective motion of the bacterial bath, and should complement hydrodynamic interactions in experiments.

    Research areas

  • Biological Physics, Materials Science, Soft Condensed Matter, self-propelled particles, Suspensions, microorganisms, Diffusion

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