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Motile Bacteria at Oil–Water Interfaces: Pseudomonas aeruginosa

  • Jiayi Deng
    Jiayi Deng
    Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    More by Jiayi Deng
  • Mehdi Molaei
    Mehdi Molaei
    Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    More by Mehdi Molaei
  • Nicholas G. Chisholm
    Nicholas G. Chisholm
    Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
  • , and 
  • Kathleen J. Stebe*
    Kathleen J. Stebe
    Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States
    *Email: [email protected]
Cite this: Langmuir 2020, 36, 25, 6888–6902
Publication Date (Web):February 25, 2020
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract Image

    Bacteria are important examples of active or self-propelled colloids. Because of their directed motion, they accumulate near interfaces. There, they can become trapped and swim adjacent to the interface via hydrodynamic interactions, or they can adsorb directly and swim in an adhered state with complex trajectories that differ from those in bulk in both form and spatiotemporal implications. We have adopted the monotrichous bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01 as a model species and have studied its motion at oil–aqueous interfaces. We have identified conditions in which bacteria swim persistently without restructuring the interface, allowing detailed and prolonged study of their motion. In addition to characterizing the ensemble behavior of the bacteria, we have observed a gallery of distinct trajectories of individual swimmers on and near fluid interfaces. We attribute these diverse swimming behaviors to differing trapped states for the bacteria in the fluid interface. These trajectory types include Brownian diffusive paths for passive adsorbed bacteria, curvilinear trajectories including curly paths with radii of curvature larger than the cell body length, and rapid pirouette motions with radii of curvature comparable to the cell body length. Finally, we see interfacial visitors that come and go from the interfacial plane. We characterize these individual swimmer motions. This work may impact nutrient cycles for bacteria on or near interfaces in nature. This work will also have implications in microrobotics, as active colloids in general and bacteria in particular are used to carry cargo in this burgeoning field. Finally, these results have implications in engineering of active surfaces that exploit interfacially trapped self-propelled colloids.

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    Supporting Information

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    The Supporting Information is available free of charge at

    • Description of modeling of bounded rotational mean squared displacement of bacteria; example trajectories of visitor bacteria; more information about motility characteristics of the bacteria with curly paths; directional and rotational autocorrelation functions and the MSD of a curvilinear path; result for PA01 ΔpilC (PDF)

    • Interfacial visitor bacterium I (AVI)

    • Interfacial visitor bacterium II (AVI)

    • Immotile bacterium moving via Brownian diffusion bacterium (AVI)

    • Bacterium with a pirouette motion (AVI)

    • Bacterium swimming in a curly path (AVI)

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    Most electronic Supporting Information files are available without a subscription to ACS Web Editions. Such files may be downloaded by article for research use (if there is a public use license linked to the relevant article, that license may permit other uses). Permission may be obtained from ACS for other uses through requests via the RightsLink permission system:

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