Rectification of swimming bacteria and self-driven particle systems by arrays of asymmetric barriers

Phys Rev Lett. 2008 Jul 4;101(1):018102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.018102. Epub 2008 Jul 3.


We show that the recent experimental observation of the rectification of swimming bacteria in a system with an array of asymmetric barriers occurs due to the ballistic component of the bacteria trajectories introduced by the bacterial "motor." Each bacterium selects a random direction for motion and then moves in this direction for a fixed period of time before randomly changing its orientation and moving in a new direction. In the limit where the bacteria undergo only Brownian motion on the size scale of the barriers, rectification does not occur. We examine the effects of steric interactions between the bacteria and observe a clogging effect upon increasing the bacteria density.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*