Bacterial swimming and oxygen transport near contact lines

Idan Tuval, Luis Cisneros, Christopher Dombrowski, Charles W. Wolgemuth, John O. Kessler, Raymond E. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

544 Scopus citations


Aerobic bacteria often live in thin fluid layers near solid-air-water contact lines, in which the biology of chemotaxis, metabolism, and cell-cell signaling is intimately connected to the physics of buoyancy, diffusion, and mixing. Using the geometry of a sessile drop, we demonstrate in suspensions of Bacillus subtilis the self-organized generation of a persistent hydrodynamic vortex that traps cells near the contact line. Arising from upward oxygentaxis and downward gravitational forcing, these dynamics are related to the Boycott effect in sedimentation and are explained quantitatively by a mathematical model consisting of oxygen diffusion and consumption, chemotaxis, and viscous fluid dynamics. The vortex is shown to advectively enhance uptake of oxygen into the suspension, and the wedge geometry leads to a singularity in the chemotactic dynamics near the contact line.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2277-2282
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 15 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Bioconvection
  • Chemotaxis
  • Singularity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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