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Alignment of Nonspherical Active Particles in Chaotic Flows

Journal article
Authors M. Borgnino
Kristian Gustavsson
F. De Lillo
G. Boffetta
M. Cencini
Bernhard Mehlig
Published in Physical Review Letters
Volume 123
Issue 13
ISSN 0031-9007
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Physics (GU)
Language en
Keywords bacterial, microorganisms, accumulation, orientation, Physics
Subject categories Physical Sciences


We study the orientation statistics of spheroidal, axisymmetric microswimmers, with shapes ranging from disks to rods, swimming in chaotic, moderately turbulent flows. Numerical simulations show that rodlike active particles preferentially align with the flow velocity. To explain the underlying mechanism, we solve a statistical model via the perturbation theory. We show that such an alignment is caused by correlations of fluid velocity and its gradients along particle paths combined with fore-aft symmetry breaking due to both swimming and particle nonsphericity. Remarkably, the discovered alignment is found to be a robust kinematical effect, independent of the underlying flow evolution. We discuss its possible relevance for aquatic ecology.

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