Particle diffusion in active fluids is non-monotonic in size

Alison E. Patteson, Arvind Gopinath, Prashant K. Purohit, Paulo E. Arratia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


We experimentally investigate the effect of particle size on the motion of passive polystyrene spheres in suspensions of Escherichia coli. Using particles covering a range of sizes from 0.6 to 39 microns, we probe particle dynamics at both short and long time scales. In all cases, the particles exhibit super-diffusive ballistic behavior at short times before eventually transitioning to diffusive behavior. Surprisingly, we find a regime in which larger particles can diffuse faster than smaller particles: The particle long-time effective diffusivity exhibits a peak in particle size, which is a deviation from classical thermal diffusion. We also find that the active contribution to particle diffusion is controlled by a dimensionless parameter, the Péclet number. A minimal model qualitatively explains the existence of the effective diffusivity peak and its dependence on bacterial concentration. Our results have broad implications on characterizing active fluids using concepts drawn from classical thermodynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2365-2372
Number of pages8
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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