Density fluctuations and energy spectra of 3D bacterial suspensions

Zhengyang Liu, Wei Zeng, Xiaolei Ma, Xiang Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Giant number fluctuations are often considered as a hallmark of the emergent nonequilibrium dynamics of active fluids. However, these anomalous density fluctuations have only been reported experimentally in two-dimensional dry active systems heretofore. Here, we investigate density fluctuations of bulkEscherichia colisuspensions, a paradigm of three-dimensional (3D) wet active fluids. Our experiments demonstrate the existence and quantify the scaling relation of giant number fluctuations in 3D bacterial suspensions. Surprisingly, the anomalous scaling persists at small scales in low-concentration suspensions well before the transition to active turbulence, reflecting the long-range nature of hydrodynamic interactions of 3D wet active fluids. To illustrate the origin of the density fluctuations, we measure the energy spectra of suspension flows and explore the density-energy coupling in both the steady and transient states of active turbulence. A scale-invariant density-independent correlation between density fluctuations and energy spectra is uncovered across a wide range of length scales. In addition, our experiments show that the energy spectra of bacterial turbulence exhibit the scaling of 3D active nematic fluids, challenging the common view of dense bacterial suspensions as active polar fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10806-10817
Number of pages12
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 28 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank D. Ghosh, Y. Peng, Y. Qiao and K. Zhang for the help with experiments and fruitful discussions. The research is supported by NSF CBET 1702352, NSF CBET 2028652 and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2021.


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