Bacterial motility under confinement is relevant to both environmental control and the spread of infection. Here, we report observations on Escherichia coli, Enterobacter sp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Bacillus subtilis when they are confined within a thin layer of water around dispersed micrometer-sized particles sprinkled over a semisolid agar gel. In this setting, E. coli and Enterobacteria orbit around the dispersed particles. The liquid layer is shaped like a shallow tent with its height at the center set by the seeding particle, and the meniscus profile set by the strong surface tension of water. The tent-shaped confinement and the left handedness of the flagellar filaments result in exclusively clockwise circular trajectories. The thin fluid layer is resilient because of a balance between evaporation and reinforcement of fluid that permeated out of the agar. The latter is driven by the Laplace pressure caused by the concave meniscus. In short, we explain the physical mechanism of a convenient method to entrap bacteria within localized thin fluid film near a permeable surface.
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