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Title: Directional self-locomotion of active droplets enabled by nematic environment
Active matter composed of self-propelled interacting units holds a major promise for the extraction of useful work from its seemingly chaotic dynamics. Streamlining active matter is especially important at the microscale, where the viscous forces prevail over inertia and transport requires a non-reciprocal motion. Here we report that microscopic active droplets representing aqueous dispersions of swimming bacteria Bacillus subtilis become unidirectionally motile when placed in an inactive nematic liquid-crystal medium. Random motion of bacteria inside the droplet is rectified into a directional self-locomotion of the droplet by the polar director structure that the droplet creates in the surrounding nematic through anisotropic molecular interactions at its surface. Droplets without active swimmers show no net displacement. The trajectory of the active droplet can be predesigned by patterning the molecular orientation of the nematic. The effect demonstrates that broken spatial symmetry of the medium can be the reason for and the means to control directional microscale transport.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1729509 1905053 1663394
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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