Swimming bacteria display a remarkable tendency to move along flat surfaces for prolonged times. This behavior may have a biological importance but can also be exploited by using microfabricated structures to manipulate bacteria. The main physical mechanism behind the surface entrapment of swimming bacteria is, however, still an open question. By studying the swimming motion of Escherichia coli cells near microfabricated pillars of variable size, we show that cell entrapment is also present for convex walls of sufficiently low curvature. Entrapment is, however, markedly reduced below a characteristic radius. Using a simple hydrodynamic model, we predict that trapped cells swim at a finite angle with the wall and a precise relation exists between the swimming angle at a flat wall and the critical radius of curvature for entrapment. Both predictions are quantitatively verified by experimental data. Our results demonstrate that the main mechanism for wall entrapment is hydrodynamic in nature and show the possibility of inhibiting cell adhesion, and thus biofilm formation, using convex features of appropriate curvature.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)