Sheared bioconvection in a horizontal tube

O. A. Croze, E. E. Ashraf, M. A. Bees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent interest in using microorganisms for biofuels is motivation enough to study bioconvection and cell dispersion in tubes subject to imposed flow. To optimize light and nutrient uptake, many microorganisms swim in directions biased by environmental cues (e. g. phototaxis in algae and chemotaxis in bacteria). Such taxes inevitably lead to accumulations of cells, which, as many microorganisms have a density different to the fluid, can induce hydrodynamic instabilites. The large-scale fluid flow and spectacular patterns that arise are termed bioconvection. However, the extent to which bioconvection is affected or suppressed by an imposed fluid flow and how bioconvection influences the mean flow profile and cell transport are open questions. This experimental study is the first to address these issues by quantifying the patterns due to suspensions of the gravitactic and gyrotactic green biflagellate alga Chlamydomonas in horizontal tubes subject to an imposed flow. With no flow, the dependence of the dominant pattern wavelength at pattern onset on cell concentration is established for three different tube diameters. For small imposed flows, the vertical plumes of cells are observed merely to bow in the direction of flow. For sufficiently high flow rates, the plumes progressively fragment into piecewise linear diagonal plumes, unexpectedly inclined at constant angles and translating at fixed speeds. The pattern wavelength generally grows with flow rate, with transitions at critical rates that depend on concentration. Even at high imposed flow rates, bioconvection is not wholly suppressed and perturbs the flow field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number046001
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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