Spontaneous topological charging of tactoids in a living nematic

Mikhail M. Genkin, Andrey Sokolov, Igor S. Aranson

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20 Scopus citations


Living nematic is a realization of an active matter combining a nematic liquid crystal with swimming bacteria. The material exhibits a remarkable tendency towards spatio-temporal self-organization manifested in formation of dynamic textures of self-propelled half-integer topological defects (disclinations). Here we report on the study of such living nematic near normal inclusions, or tactoids, naturally realized in liquid crystals close to the isotropic-nematic (I-N) phase transition. On the basis of the computational analysis, we have established that tactoid's I-N interface spontaneously acquire negative topological charge which is proportional to the tactoid's size and depends on the concentration of bacteria. The observed negative charging is attributed to the drastic difference in the mobilities of +1/2 and -1/2 topological defects in active systems. The effect is described in the framework of a kinetic theory for point-like weakly-interacting defects with different mobilities. Our dedicated experiment fully confirmed the theoretical prediction. The results hint into new strategies for control of active matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043027
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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