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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Oct 19;109(16):168105. Epub 2012 Oct 19.

Spontaneous circulation of confined active suspensions.

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Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge CB3 0WA, United Kingdom.


Many active fluid systems encountered in biology are set in total geometric confinement. Cytoplasmic streaming in plant cells is a prominent and ubiquitous example, in which cargo-carrying molecular motors move along polymer filaments and generate coherent cell-scale flow. When filaments are not fixed to the cell periphery, a situation found both in vivo and in vitro, we observe that the basic dynamics of streaming are closely related to those of a nonmotile stresslet suspension. Under this model, it is demonstrated that confinement makes possible a stable circulating state; a linear stability analysis reveals an activity threshold for spontaneous autocirculation. Numerical analysis of the longtime behavior reveals a phenomenon akin to defect separation in nematic liquid crystals and a high-activity bifurcation to an oscillatory regime.

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