Advances in Bioconvection

Martin A. Bees*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The term bioconvection describes hydrodynamic instabilities and patterns in suspensions of biased swimming microorganisms. Hydrodynamic instabilities arise from coupling between cell swimming behaviors; physical properties of the cells, such as density; and fluid flows. For instance, a combination of viscous and gravitational torques can lead to cells swimming toward downwelling fluid. If the cells are more dense than the fluid, then a gyrotactic instability results. Phototaxis describes the directed response of cells to light, which can also lead to instability. Bioconvection represents a classic system where macroscopic phenomena arise from microscopic cellular behavior in relatively dilute systems. There are ecological consequences for bioconvection and the mechanisms involved as well as potential for industrial exploitation. The focus of this review is on progress measuring and modeling gyrotactic and phototactic bioconvection. It builds on two earlier reviews of bioconvection and recent interest in active matter, describing progress and highlighting open problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-476
Number of pages28
JournalAnnual Review of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2020

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