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Bacteria mix it up at the microscopic level

Many hands—or many flagella—make light work.

In studies of the motion of tiny swimming bacteria, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory found that the microscopic organisms can stir fluids remarkably quickly and effectively. As a result, the bacterial flagella could act like tiny motors to mix chemicals in biomedical kits, among other applications.

Igor Aronson, an Argonne materials scientist, and Andrey Sokolov, a former graduate student from the Illinois Institute of Technology and now postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, piled Bacillus subtillis bacteria into thin films to decode the physics that govern how they move. The bacteria, each equipped with many tiny flagella, or tails, shot back and forth across the films.
 
 

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