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  1. Using a minimal hydrodynamic model, we theoretically and computationally study the Couette flow of active gels in straight and annular two-dimensional channels subject to an externally imposed shear.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 24, 2025
  2. Changes in the geometry and topology of self-assembled membranes underlie diverse processes across cellular biology and engineering. Similar to lipid bilayers, monolayer colloidal membranes have in-plane fluid-like dynamics and out-of-plane bending elasticity. Their open edges and micrometer-length scale provide a tractable system to study the equilibrium energetics and dynamic pathways of membrane assembly and reconfiguration. Here, we find that doping colloidal membranes with short miscible rods transforms disk-shaped membranes into saddle-shaped surfaces with complex edge structures. The saddle-shaped membranes are well approximated by Enneper’s minimal surfaces. Theoretical modeling demonstrates that their formation is driven by increasing the positive Gaussian modulus, which in turn, is controlled by the fraction of short rods. Further coalescence of saddle-shaped surfaces leads to diverse topologically distinct structures, including shapes similar to catenoids, trinoids, four-noids, and higher-order structures. At long timescales, we observe the formation of a system-spanning, sponge-like phase. The unique features of colloidal membranes reveal the topological transformations that accompany coalescence pathways in real time. We enhance the functionality of these membranes by making their shape responsive to external stimuli. Our results demonstrate a pathway toward control of thin elastic sheets’ shape and topology—a pathway driven by the emergent elasticity induced by compositional heterogeneity. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Motivated by experiments on colloidal membranes composed of chiral rod-like viruses, we use Monte Carlo methods to simulate these systems and determine the phase diagram for the liquid crystalline order of the rods and the membrane shape. We generalize the Lebwohl–Lasher model for a nematic with a chiral coupling to a curved surface with edge tension and a resistance to bending, and include an energy cost for tilting of the rods relative to the local membrane normal. The membrane is represented by a triangular mesh of hard beads joined by bonds, where each bead is decorated by a director. The beads can move, the bonds can reconnect and the directors can rotate at each Monte Carlo step. When the cost of tilt is small, the membrane tends to be flat, with the rods only twisting near the edge for low chiral coupling, and remaining parallel to the normal in the interior of the membrane. At high chiral coupling, the rods twist everywhere, forming a cholesteric state. When the cost of tilt is large, the emergence of the cholesteric state at high values of the chiral coupling is accompanied by the bending of the membrane into a saddle shape. Increasing the edge tension tends to flatten the membrane. These results illustrate the geometric frustration arising from the inability of a surface normal to have twist. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    We use theory and numerical computation to determine the shape of an axisymmetric fluid membrane with a resistance to bending and constant area. The membrane connects two rings in the classic geometry that produces a catenoidal shape in a soap film. In our problem, we find infinitely many branches of solutions for the shape and external force as functions of the separation of the rings, analogous to the infinite family of eigenmodes for the Euler buckling of a slender rod. Special attention is paid to the catenoid, which emerges as the shape of maximal allowable separation when the area is less than a critical area equal to the planar area enclosed by the two rings. A perturbation theory argument directly relates the tension of catenoidal membranes to the stability of catenoidal soap films in this regime. When the membrane area is larger than the critical area, we find additional cylindrical tether solutions to the shape equations at large ring separation, and that arbitrarily large ring separations are possible. These results apply for the case of vanishing Gaussian curvature modulus; when the Gaussian curvature modulus is nonzero and the area is below the critical area, the force and the membrane tension diverge as the ring separation approaches its maximum value. We also examine the stability of our shapes and analytically show that catenoidal membranes have markedly different stability properties than their soap film counterparts. 
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  5. Topological structures are effective descriptors of the nonequilibrium dynamics of diverse many-body systems. For example, motile, point-like topological defects capture the salient features of two-dimensional active liquid crystals composed of energy-consuming anisotropic units. We dispersed force-generating microtubule bundles in a passive colloidal liquid crystal to form a three-dimensional active nematic. Light-sheet microscopy revealed the temporal evolution of the millimeter-scale structure of these active nematics with single-bundle resolution. The primary topological excitations are extended, charge-neutral disclination loops that undergo complex dynamics and recombination events. Our work suggests a framework for analyzing the nonequilibrium dynamics of bulk anisotropic systems as diverse as driven complex fluids, active metamaterials, biological tissues, and collections of robots or organisms.

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