Rotational tumbling of Escherichia coli aggregates under shear

R Portela, Pedro Patrício , P L Almeida, Rita G Sobral, J. M. Franco, C R Leal

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Growing living cultures of Escherichia coli bacteria are investigated using real-time in situ rheology and rheoimaging measurements. In the early stages of growth (lag phase) and when subjected to a constant stationary shear, the viscosity slowly increases with the cell's population. As the bacteria reach the exponential phase of growth, the viscosity increases rapidly, with sudden and temporary abrupt decreases and recoveries. At a certain stage, corresponding grossly to the late phase of growth, when the population stabilizes, the viscosity also keeps its maximum constant value, with drops and recoveries, for a long period of time. This complex rheological behavior, which is observed to be shear strain dependent, is a consequence of two coupled effects: the cell density continuous increase and its changing interacting properties. Particular attention is given to the late phase of growth of E. coli populations under shear. Rheoimaging measurements reveal, near the static plate, a rotational motion of E. coli aggregates, collectively tumbling and flowing in the shear direction. This behavior is interpreted in the light of a simple theoretical approach based on simple rigid body mechanics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number062402
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016


  • Physics, Fluids & Plasmas
  • Physics, Mathematical


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