Active fluids refer to the fluids that contain self-propelled particles such as bacteria or micro-algae, whose properties differ fundamentally from the passive fluids. Such particles often exhibit an intermittent motion; with high-motility “run” periods separated by low-motility “tumble” periods. The average motion can be modified with external stresses, such as nutrient or light gradient, leading to a directed movement called chemotaxis and phototaxis, respectively.

Using cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp.PCC 6803, a model micro-organism to study photosynthesis, we track the bacterial response to light stimuli, under isotropic and non-isotropic conditions. In particular, we investigate how the intermittent motility is influenced by illumination.

We find that just after a rise in light intensity, the probability to be in the run state increases. This feature vanishes after a typical time of about 1 hour, when initial probability is recovered. Our results are well described by a model based on the linear response theory.

When the perturbation is anisotropic, the characteristic time of runs is longer whatever the direction, similar to what is observed with isotropic conditions. Yet we observe a collective motion toward the light source (phototaxis) and show that the bias emerges because of more frequent runs towards the light.

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