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Helical and oscillatory microswimmer motility statistics from differential dynamic microscopy

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019


The experimental characterisation of the swimming statistics of populations of micro-organisms or artificially propelled particles is essential for understanding the physics of active systems and their exploitation. Here, we construct a theoretical framework to extract information on the three-dimensional motion of micro-swimmers from the intermediate scattering function (ISF) obtained from differential dynamic microscopy (DDM). We derive theoretical expressions for the ISF of helical and oscillatory breaststroke swimmers, and test the theoretical framework by applying it to video sequences generated from simulated swimmers with precisely-controlled dynamics. We then discuss how our theory can be applied to the experimental study of helical swimmers, such as active Janus colloids or suspensions of motile microalgae. In particular, we show how fitting DDM data to a simple, non-helical ISF model can be used to derive three-dimensional helical motility parameters, which can therefore be obtained without specialised 3D microscopy equipment. Finally, we discus how our results aid the study of active matter and describe applications of biological and ecological importance.

    Research areas

  • physics.bio-ph, q-bio.QM

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