Microfluidics devices are gaining significant interest in biomedical applications. However, in a micron-scale device, reaction speed is often limited by the slow rate of diffusion of the reagents. Several active and passive micro-mixers have been fabricated to enhance mixing in microfluidic devices. Here, we demonstrate external control of mixing by rotating a rod-shaped bacterial cell. This rotation is driven by ion transit across the bacterial flagellar stator complex. We first measured the flow fields generated by rotating a single bacterial cell rotationally locked to rotate either clockwise (CW) or counterclockwise (CCW). Micro-particle image velocimetry (μPIV) and particle tracking velocimetry results showed that a bacterial cell of ∼ 2.75 μm long, rotating at 5.75 ± 0.39 Hz in a counterclockwise direction could generate distinct micro-vortices with circular flow fields with a mean velocity of 4.72 ± 1.67 μm/s and maximum velocity of 7.90 μm/s in aqueous solution. We verified our experimental data with a numerical simulation at matched flow conditions, which revealed vortices of similar dimensions and speed. We observed that the flow-field diminished with increasing z-height above the plane of the rotating cell. Lastly, we showed that we could activate and tune rotational mixing remotely using strains engineered with proteorhodopsin, where rotation could be activated by controlled external illumination using green laser light (561 nm).
Microbial stir bars: Light-activated rotation of tethered bacterial cells to enhance mixing in stagnant fluids
Jyoti P. Gurung, Moein Navvab Kashani, Charitha M. de Silva, Matthew A. B. Baker; Microbial stir bars: Light-activated rotation of tethered bacterial cells to enhance mixing in stagnant fluids. Biomicrofluidics 1 March 2023; 17 (2): 024108. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0144934
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