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Entrainment dominates the interaction of microalgae with micron-sized objects

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JournalNature Communications
DateAccepted/In press - 8 Jul 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2016
DatePublished (current) - 18 Aug 2016
Volume7
Pages (from-to)12518
Early online date18/08/16
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The incessant activity of swimming microorganisms has a direct physical effect on surrounding microscopic objects, leading to enhanced diffusion far beyond the level of Brownian motion with possible influences on the spatial distribution of non-motile planktonic species and particulate drifters. Here we study in detail the effect of eukaryotic flagellates, represented by the green microalga
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, on microparticles. Macro- and micro-scopic experiments reveal that microorganism--colloid interactions are dominated by rare close encounters leading to large displacements through direct entrainment. Simulations and theoretical modelling show that the ensuing particle dynamics can be understood in terms of a simple jump-diffusion process, combining standard diffusion with Poisson-distributed jumps. This heterogeneous dynamics is likely to depend on generic features of the near-field of swimming microorganisms with front-mounted flagella.

    Research areas

  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii/physiology, Computer Simulation, Diffusion, Microalgae/physiology, Models, Theoretical, Numerical Analysis, Computer-Assisted, Particle Size, Probability, Suspensions, Swimming

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