Hydrodynamic and subdiffusive motion of tracers in a viscoelastic medium
We investigate the diffusive motion of micron-sized spherical tracers in a viscoelastic actin filament network over the time span of 8 orders of magnitude using optical-tweezers single-particle tracking. The hydrodynamic interactions of a tracer with the surrounding fluid are shown to dominate at microsecond time scales, while subdiffusive scaling due to viscoelastic properties of the medium emerges at millisecond time scales. The transition between these two regimes is analyzed in the frame of a minimal phenomenological model which combines the Basset force and the generalized Stokes force. The resulting Langevin equation accounts for various dynamical features of the thermal motion of endogenous or exogenous tracers in viscoelastic media such as inertial and hydrodynamic effects at short times, subdiffusive scaling at intermediate times, and eventual optical trapping at long times. Simple analytical formulas for the mean-square displacement and velocity autocorrelation function are derived.