Living liquid crystals

Shuang Zhou, Andrey Sokolov, Oleg D. Lavrentovich, Igor S. Aranson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations

Abstract

Collective motion of self-propelled organisms or synthetic particles, often termed "active fluid," has attracted enormous attention in the broad scientific community because of its fundamentally nonequilibrium nature. Energy input and interactions among the moving units and the medium lead to complex dynamics. Here, we introduce a class of active matter-living liquid crystals (LLCs)- that combines living swimming bacteria with a lyotropic liquid crystal. The physical properties of LLCs can be controlled by the amount of oxygen available to bacteria, by concentration of ingredients, or by temperature. Our studies reveal a wealth of intriguing dynamic phenomena, caused by the coupling between the activity-triggered flow and long-range orientational order of the medium. Among these are (i) nonlinear trajectories of bacterial motion guided by nonuniform director, (ii) local melting of the liquid crystal caused by the bacteria-produced shear flows, (iii) activity-triggered transition from a nonflowing uniform state into a flowing one-dimensional periodic pattern and its evolution into a turbulent array of topological defects, and (iv) birefringenceenabled visualization of microflow generated by the nanometersthick bacterial flagella. Unlike their isotropic counterpart, the LLCs show collective dynamic effects at very low volume fraction of bacteria, on the order of 0.2%. Our work suggests an unorthodox design concept to control and manipulate the dynamic behavior of soft active matter and opens the door for potential biosensing and biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1270
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume111
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 28 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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