Physicists use oil drops to study how bacteria and other single-celled organisms swim

Despite the relative simplicity of form, single-celled creatures have developed complex forms for research.

surrounding space.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization conducted a series of experiments to uncover the physical mechanisms that determine the movement strategies of microswimmers.

In the first experiment, the researchers studied howmoving micro swimmers influence each other. In their experiment, microscopic oil droplets in a soapy solution move independently of each other, releasing a small amount of oil.

The same "contrails" that canto scare away other microorganisms, leave behind bacteria, scientists say. Microswimmers can determine if another organism has been in the same place recently. Such a strategy leads to self-avoiding movement, the authors explain.

Microorganisms repel from traces and movein a closed circuit away from others. In this case, the repulsive action of one "swimmer" from the trajectory of another is determined by the approach angle and the time elapsed since the first swim.

Floating particles leave a "contrail" that repels other particles. Image: MPI-DS / Maass

In another experiment, scientists showed that forIn order to move against the current in a narrow channel, small organisms use hydrodynamic interaction with the channel wall. This type of movement explains, for example, how pathogenic bacteria move through blood vessels.

In addition, scientists have studied the collectivehydrodynamic behavior of a large number of microswimmers. They found that numerous droplets can form clusters that float like hovercraft or rise and spin like small helicopters. In this case, individual particles could not move in this way.

Active microswimmers can form swarms that spontaneously start spinning and rising like microscopic helicopters. Image: MPI-DS / Maass

The researchers believe that the various movement patterns found in microorganisms can be used to design nanorobots and develop targeted drug delivery mechanisms.

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