We investigate a new form of collective dynamics displayed by Thiovulum majus, one of the fastest-swimming bacteria known. Cells spontaneously organize on a surface into a visually striking two-dimensional hexagonal lattice of rotating cells. As each constituent cell rotates its flagella, it creates a tornado like flow that pulls neighboring cells towards and around it. In the first part of the talk, we describe the earliest stage of crystallization, the attraction of two bacteria into a hydrodynamically-bound dimer.
In the second part of the talk, we present the dynamics of bacterial crystals, which are composed of 5--200 hydrodynamically bound cells. As cells rotate against their neighbors, they exert forces on one another, causing the crystal to rotate and cells to reorganize. We show how these dynamics arise from hydrodynamic and steric interactions between cells. We derive the equations of motion for a crystal, show that this model explains several aspects of the observed dynamics, and discuss the stability of these active crystals.
Refreshments will be served in Olin Hall 118 at 3:30 P.M.