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Phys Rev Lett. 2014 Mar 21;112(11):118102. Epub 2014 Mar 20.

Irreducible representations of oscillatory and swirling flows in active soft matter.

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The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, CIT Campus, Chennai 600113, India.


Recent experiments imaging fluid flow around swimming microorganisms have revealed complex time-dependent velocity fields that differ qualitatively from the stresslet flow commonly employed in theoretical descriptions of active matter. Here we obtain the most general flow around a finite sized active particle by expanding the surface stress in irreducible Cartesian tensors. This expansion, whose first term is the stresslet, must include, respectively, third-rank polar and axial tensors to minimally capture crucial features of the active oscillatory flow around translating Chlamydomonas and the active swirling flow around rotating Volvox. The representation provides explicit expressions for the irreducible symmetric, antisymmetric, and isotropic parts of the continuum active stress. Antisymmetric active stresses do not conserve orbital angular momentum and our work thus shows that spin angular momentum is necessary to restore angular momentum conservation in continuum hydrodynamic descriptions of active soft matter.

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