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Orientational instability and spontaneous rotation of active nematic droplets

Abstract : In experiments, an individual chemically active liquid crystal (LC) droplet submerged in the bulk of a surfactant solution may self-propel along a straight, helical, or random trajectory. In this paper, we develop a minimal model capturing all three types of self-propulsion trajectories of a drop in the case of a nematic LC with homeotropic anchoring at LC-fluid interface. We emulate the director field within the drop by a single preferred polarization vector that is subject of two reorientation mechanisms, namely, the internal flow-induced displacement of the hedgehog defect and the droplet's rotation. Within this reduced-order model, the coupling between the nematic ordering of the drop and the surfactant transport is represented by variations of the droplet's interfacial properties with nematic polarization. Our analysis reveals that a novel mode of orientational instability emerges from the competition of the two reorientation mechanisms and is characterized by a spontaneous rotation of the self-propelling drop responsible for helical self-propulsion trajectories. In turn, we also show that random trajectories in isotropic and nematic drops alike stem from the advection-driven transition to chaos. The succession of the different propulsion modes is consistent with experimentally-reported transitions in the shape of droplet trajectories as the drop size is varied.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 4:14:33 PM
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Matvey Morozov, Sébastien Michelin. Orientational instability and spontaneous rotation of active nematic droplets. Soft Matter, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2019, 15 (39), pp.7814-7822. ⟨10.1039/C9SM01076A⟩. ⟨hal-02360028⟩

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