Curvature-induced defect unbinding and dynamics in active nematic toroids

Perry W. Ellis, Daniel J.G. Pearce, Ya Wen Chang, Guillermo Goldsztein, Luca Giomi, Alberto Fernandez-Nieves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Nematic order on curved surfaces is often disrupted by the presence of topological defects, which are singular regions in which the orientational order is undefined. In the presence of force-generating active materials, these defects are able to migrate through space like swimming microorganisms.We use toroidal surfaces to show that despite their highly chaotic and non-equilibrium dynamics, pairs of defects unbind and segregate in regions of opposite Gaussian curvature. Using numerical simulations, we find that the degree of defect unbinding can be controlled by tuning the system activity, and even suppressed in strongly active systems. Furthermore, by using the defects as active microrheological tracers and quantitatively comparing our experimental and theoretical results, we are able to determine material properties of the active nematic. Our results illustrate how topology and geometry can be used to control the behaviour of active materials, and introduce a new avenue for the quantitative mechanical characterization of active fluids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-90
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


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