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Fluid dynamics of bacterial turbulence

Dunkel, J (University of Cambridge)
Friday 28 June 2013, 17:15-17:40

Seminar Room 1, Newton Institute


Self-sustained turbulent structures have been observed in a wide range of living fluids, yet no quantitative continuum theory exists to explain their properties. We report experiments on active turbulence in highly concentrated 3D suspensions of Bacillus subtilis and compare them with a minimal fourth-order vector-field theory for incompressible bacterial dynamics. Velocimetry of bacteria and surrounding fluid, determined by imaging cells and tracking colloidal tracers, yields consistent results for velocity statistics and correlations over two orders of magnitude in kinetic energy, revealing a decrease of fluid memory with increasing swimming activity and linear scaling between energy and enstrophy. The best-fit model parameters allow for quantitative agreement with experimental data.

Co-authors: Sebastian Heidenreich (PTB Berlin), Knut Drescher (Princeton University), Rik Wensink (CNRS Orsay), Markus Baer (PTB Berlin), Ray Goldstein (University of Cambridge)


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