Bifurcation and stability of downflowing gyrotactic micro-organism suspensions in a vertical pipe

17 Jul 2020  ·  Fung Lloyd, Bearon Rachel N., Hwang Yongyun ·

In the experiment that first demonstrated gyrotactic behaviour of bottom-heavy swimming microalgae (e.g. Chlamydomonas), Kessler (Nature, vol. 313, 1985, pp... 218-220) showed that a beam-like structure, often referred to as a gyrotactic plume, would spontaneously appear from a suspension of gyrotactic swimmers in a downflowing pipe. Such a plume is prone to an instability to form blips. This work models the gyrotactic plume as a steady parallel basic state and its subsequent breakdown into blips as an instability, employing both the Generalised Taylor Dispersion (GTD) theory and the Fokker-Planck model for comparison. Upon solving for the basic state, it is discovered that the steady plume solution undergoes sophisticated bifurcations. When there is no net flow, there exists a non-trivial solution of the plume structure other than the stationary uniform suspension, stemming from a transcritical bifurcation with the average cell concentration. When a net downflow is prescribed, there exists a cusp bifurcation. Furthermore, there is a critical concentration, at which the cell concentration at the centre would blow up for the GTD model. The subsequent stability analysis using the steady plume solution shows that the Fokker-Planck model is inconsistent with what was experimentally observed, as it predicts stabilisation of axisymmetric blips at high concentration of the plume and destabilisation of the first non-axisymmetric mode at low flow rates. read more

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Fluid Dynamics