PhD project: Microswimmers in Complex Fluids

Project description

The propulsion mechanism of microscopic bacteria fundamentally differs from swimming of large aquatic animals or humans. Because of their small size and low propulsion velocities, bacteria cannot rely on any time-reversible stroke for propulsion. Instead they employ various versions of long helical filaments (flagella) that are rotated at constant speed, and function, essentially, as a cork-screw. The relation between the geometric parameters of the bacteria (its size, shape, length of the flagella etc.) and its propulsion velocity in water is governed by the low-Reynolds number hydrodynamics and is relatively well-understood [1].

However, many bacteria live in complex biological environments that often do not behave like Newtonian fluids (water). Presently, the mechanism of bacterial propulsion in complex fluids is not understood. You will employ analytical and numerical techniques to study microswimmers in model complex fluids.

[1] Life at low Reynolds number, E. M. Purcell, American Journal of Physics 45, 3 (1977).

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