July  2009, 12(1): 77-108. doi: 10.3934/dcdsb.2009.12.77

Particle, kinetic and fluid models for phototaxis


Department of Mathematical Sciences and Research Institute of Mathematics, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-747


Department of Mathematics and Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

Received  March 2008 Revised  February 2009 Published  May 2009

In this work we derive a hierarchy of new mathematical models for describing the motion of phototactic bacteria, i.e., bacteria that move towards light. These models are based on recent experiments suggesting that the motion of such bacteria depends on the individual bacteria, on group dynamics, and on the interaction between bacteria and their environment. Our first model is a collisionless interacting particle system in which we follow the location of the bacteria, their velocity, and their internal excitation (a parameter whose role is assumed to be related to communication between bacteria). In this model, the light source acts as an external force. The resulting particle system is an extension of the Cucker-Smale flocking model. We prove that when all particles are fully excited, their asymptotic velocity tends to an identical (pre-determined) terminal velocity. Our second model is a kinetic model for the one-particle distribution function that includes an internal variable representing the excitation level. The kinetic model is a Vlasov-type equation that is derived from the particle system using the BBGKY hierarchy and molecular chaos assumption. Since bacteria tend to move in areas that were previously traveled by other bacteria, a surface memory effect is added to the kinetic model as a turning operator that accounts for the collisions between bacteria and the environment. The third and final model is derived as a formal macroscopic limit of the kinetic model. It is shown to be the Vlasov-McKean equation coupled with a reaction-diffusion equation.
Citation: Seung-Yeal Ha, Doron Levy. Particle, kinetic and fluid models for phototaxis. Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems - B, 2009, 12 (1) : 77-108. doi: 10.3934/dcdsb.2009.12.77

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