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A Pili-Driven Bacterial Turbine

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Zaburdaev, Vasily 


jats:pWork generated by self-propelled bacteria can be harnessed with the help of microdevices. Such nanofabricated microdevices, immersed in a bacterial bath, may exhibit unidirectional rotational or translational motion. Swimming bacteria that propel with the help of actively rotating flagella are a prototypical example of active agents that can power such microdevices. In this work, we propose a computational model of a micron-sized turbine powered by bacteria that rely on active type IV pili appendages for surface-associated motility. We find that the turbine can rotate persistently over a time scale that significantly exceeds the characteristic times of the single cell motility. The persistent rotation is explained by the collective dynamics of multiple pili of groups of cells attaching to and pulling on turbine. Furthermore, we show that the turbine can rotate permanently in the same direction by altering the pili binding to the turbine surface in an asymmetric fashion. We thus can show that by changing the adhesive properties of the turbine while keeping its symmetric geometry, we can still break the symmetry of its rotation. Altogether, this study widely expands the range of bacteria that can be used to power nanofabricated microdevices, and, due to high pili forces generated by pili retraction, promises to push the harnessed work by several orders of magnitude.</jats:p>



bacterial turbine, bacterial motility, microdevice, type IV pili, active motion

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Frontiers Media SA