Effective viscosity of puller-like microswimmers: a renormalization approach

J R Soc Interface. 2013 Sep 25;10(89):20130720. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2013.0720. Print 2013 Dec 6.


Effective viscosity (EV) of suspensions of puller-like microswimmers (pullers), for example Chlamydamonas algae, is difficult to measure or simulate for all swimmer concentrations. Although there are good reasons to expect that the EV of pullers is similar to that of passive suspensions, analytical determination of the passive EV for all concentrations remains unsatisfactory. At the same time, the EV of bacterial suspensions is closely linked to collective motion in these systems and is biologically significant. We develop an approach for determining analytical EV estimates at all concentrations for suspensions of pullers as well as for passive suspensions. The proposed methods are based on the ideas of renormalization group (RG) theory and construct the EV formula based on the known asymptotics for small concentrations and near the critical point (i.e. approaching dense packing). For passive suspensions, the method is verified by comparison against known theoretical results. We find that the method performs much better than an earlier RG-based technique. For pullers, the validation is done by comparing them to experiments conducted on Chlamydamonas suspensions.

Keywords: active and passive suspensions; effective viscosity; pullers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Movement
  • Chlorophyta / physiology*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Rheology
  • Viscosity