Vortex flows and streamline topology in curved biological membranes

R. Samanta, N. Oppenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When considering flows in biological membranes, they are usually treated as flat although, more often than not, they are curved surfaces, even extremely curved, as in the case of the endoplasmic reticulum. Here, we study the topological effects of curvature on flows in membranes. Focusing on a system of many point vortical defects, we are able to cast the viscous dynamics of the defects in terms of a geometric Hamiltonian. In contrast to the planar situation, the flows generate additional defects of positive index. For the simpler situation of two vortices, we analytically predict the location of these stagnation points. At the low curvature limit, the dynamics resemble that of vortices in an ideal fluid, but considerable deviations occur at high curvatures. The geometric formulation allows us to construct the spatiotemporal evolution of streamline topology of the flows resulting from hydrodynamic interactions between the vortices. The streamlines reveal novel dynamical bifurcations leading to spontaneous defect-pair creation and fusion. Further, we find that membrane curvature mediates defect binding and imparts a global rotation to the many-vortex system, with the individual vortices still interacting locally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number051906
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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