Insensitivity of active nematic liquid crystal dynamics to topological constraints

Michael M. Norton, Arvind Baskaran, Achini Opathalage, Blake Langeslay, Seth Fraden, Aparna Baskaran, Michael F. Hagan

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61 Scopus citations


Confining a liquid crystal imposes topological constraints on the orientational order, allowing global control of equilibrium systems by manipulation of anchoring boundary conditions. In this article, we investigate whether a similar strategy allows control of active liquid crystals. We study a hydrodynamic model of an extensile active nematic confined in containers, with different anchoring conditions that impose different net topological charges on the nematic director. We show that the dynamics are controlled by a complex interplay between topological defects in the director and their induced vortical flows. We find three distinct states by varying confinement and the strength of the active stress: A topologically minimal state, a circulating defect state, and a turbulent state. In contrast to equilibrium systems, we find that anchoring conditions are screened by the active flow, preserving system behavior across different topological constraints. This observation identifies a fundamental difference between active and equilibrium materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number012702
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 10 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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