Resonant alignment of microswimmer trajectories in oscillatory shear flows

Hope, Alexander and Croze, Ottavio A. and Poon, Wilson C. K. and Bees, Martin A. and Haw, Mark D. (2016) Resonant alignment of microswimmer trajectories in oscillatory shear flows. Physical Review Fluids, 1 (5). 051201. ISSN 2469-990X (

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Oscillatory flows are commonly experienced by swimming micro-organisms in the environment, industrial applications, and rheological investigations. We characterize experimentally the response of the alga Dunaliella salina to oscillatory shear flows and report the surprising discovery that algal swimming trajectories orient perpendicular to the flow-shear plane. The ordering has the characteristics of a resonance in the driving parameter space. The behavior is qualitatively reproduced by a simple model and simulations accounting for helical swimming, suggesting a mechanism for ordering and criteria for the resonant amplitude and frequency. The implications of this work for active oscillatory rheology and industrial algal processing are discussed.