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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jul 3;115(27):6934-6939. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1720607115. Epub 2018 Jun 18.

A nonequilibrium force can stabilize 2D active nematics.

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LPTMS, CNRS, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, 91405 Orsay, France;
Theoretical Physics of Biology Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute, London NW1 1AT, United Kingdom.
Physics Department, Soft and Living Matter Program, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244.
Université Bordeaux, CNRS, LOMA, UMR 5798, F-33405 Talence, France.
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Hyderabad 500107, India.
Centre for Condensed Matter Theory, Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India.
MultiScale Material Science for Energy and Environment, Unité Mixte Internationale 3466, CNRS-Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139.


Suspensions of actively driven anisotropic objects exhibit distinctively nonequilibrium behaviors, and current theories predict that they are incapable of sustaining orientational order at high activity. By contrast, here we show that nematic suspensions on a substrate can display order at arbitrarily high activity due to a previously unreported, potentially stabilizing active force. This force moreover emerges inevitably in theories of active orientable fluids under geometric confinement. The resulting nonequilibrium ordered phase displays robust giant number fluctuations that cannot be suppressed even by an incompressible solvent. Our results apply to virtually all experimental assays used to investigate the active nematic ordering of self-propelled colloids, bacterial suspensions, and the cytoskeleton and have testable implications in interpreting their nonequilibrium behaviors.


active matter; confined active nematics; living liquid crystals

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