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Phys Rev Lett. 2008 Oct 24;101(17):178102. Epub 2008 Oct 20.

Nature's microfluidic transporter: rotational cytoplasmic streaming at high Péclet numbers.

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Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Cytoplasmic streaming circulates the contents of large eukaryotic cells, often with complex flow geometries. A largely unanswered question is the significance of these flows for molecular transport and mixing. Motivated by "rotational streaming" in Characean algae, we solve the advection-diffusion dynamics of flow in a cylinder with bidirectional helical forcing at the wall. A circulatory flow transverse to the cylinder's long axis, akin to Dean vortices at finite Reynolds numbers, arises from the chiral geometry. Strongly enhanced lateral transport and longitudinal homogenization occur if the transverse Péclet number is sufficiently large, with scaling laws arising from boundary layers.

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