Suspension biomechanics of swimming microbes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Micro-organisms play a vital role in many biological, medical and engineering phenomena. Some recent research efforts have demonstrated the importance of biomechanics in understanding certain aspects of micro-organism behaviours such as locomotion and collective motions of cells. In particular, spatio-temporal coherent structures found in a bacterial suspension have been the focus of many research studies over the last few years. Recent studies have shown that macroscopic properties of a suspension, such as rheology and diffusion, are strongly affected by meso-scale flow structures generated by swimming microbes. Since the meso-scale flow structures are strongly affected by the interactions between microbes, a bottom-up strategy, i.e. from a cellular level to a continuum suspension level, represents the natural approach to the study of a suspension of swimming microbes. In this paper, we first provide a summary of existing biomechanical research on interactions between a pair of swimming micro-organisms, as a two-body interaction is the simplest many-body interaction. We show that interactions between two nearby swimming micro-organisms are described well by existing mathematical models. Then, collective motions formed by a group of swimming micro-organisms are discussed. We show that some collective motions of micro-organisms, such as coherent structures of bacterial suspensions, are satisfactorily explained by fluid dynamics. Lastly, we discuss how macroscopic suspension properties are changed by the microscopic characteristics of the cell suspension. The fundamental knowledge we present will be useful in obtaining a better understanding of the behaviour of micro-organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-834
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Oct 6


  • Biofluid mechanics
  • Collective motion
  • Micro-organism
  • Suspension
  • Swimming


Dive into the research topics of 'Suspension biomechanics of swimming microbes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this