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Curling liquid crystal microswimmers: A cascade of spontaneous symmetry breaking.

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Krüger,  Carsten
Group Granular matter and irreversibility, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Klös,  Gunnar
Group Active soft matter, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Bahr,  Christian
Group Structure formation in soft matter, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Maass,  Corinna C.
Group Active soft matter, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Krüger, C., Klös, G., Bahr, C., & Maass, C. C. (2016). Curling liquid crystal microswimmers: A cascade of spontaneous symmetry breaking. Physical Review Letters, 117(4): 048003. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.048003.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-152B-3
Abstract
We report curling self-propulsion in aqueous emulsions of common mesogenic compounds. Nematic liquid crystal droplets self-propel in a surfactant solution with concentrations above the critical micelle concentration while undergoing micellar solubilization [Herminghaus et al., Soft Matter 10, 7008 (2014)]. We analyzed trajectories both in a Hele-Shaw geometry and in a 3D setup at variable buoyancy. The coupling between the nematic director field and the convective flow inside the droplet leads to a second symmetry breaking which gives rise to curling motion in 2D. This is demonstrated through a reversible transition to nonhelical persistent swimming by heating to the isotropic phase. Furthermore, autochemotaxis can spontaneously break the inversion symmetry, leading to helical trajectories in 3D.