Individual behavior and pairwise interactions between microswimmers in anisotropic liquid

Andrey Sokolov, Shuang Zhou, Oleg D. Lavrentovich, Igor S. Aranson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


A motile bacterium swims by generating flow in its surrounding liquid. Anisotropy of the suspending liquid significantly modifies the swimming dynamics and corresponding flow signatures of an individual bacterium and impacts collective behavior. We study the interactions between swimming bacteria in an anisotropic environment exemplified by lyotropic chromonic liquid crystal. Our analysis reveals a significant localization of the bacteria-induced flow along a line coaxial with the bacterial body, which is due to strong viscosity anisotropy of the liquid crystal. Despite the fact that the average viscosity of the liquid crystal is two to three orders of magnitude higher than the viscosity of pure water, the speed of bacteria in the liquid crystal is of the same order of magnitude as in water. We show that bacteria can transport a cargo (a fluorescent particle) along a predetermined trajectory defined by the direction of molecular orientation of the liquid crystal. We demonstrate that while the hydrodynamic interaction between flagella of two close-by bacteria is negligible, the observed convergence of the swimming speeds as well as flagella waves' phase velocities may occur due to viscoelastic interaction between the bacterial bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number013009
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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