Topological structure and dynamics of three dimensional active nematics
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Topological structure and dynamics of three dimensional active nematics

  • Author(s): Duclos, Guillaume
  • Adkins, Raymond
  • Banerjee, Debarghya
  • Peterson, Matthew SE
  • Varghese, Minu
  • Kolvin, Itamar
  • Baskaran, Arvind
  • Pelcovits, Robert A
  • Powers, Thomas R
  • Baskaran, Aparna
  • Toschi, Federico
  • Hagan, Michael F
  • Streichan, Sebastian J
  • Vitelli, Vincenzo
  • Beller, Daniel A
  • Dogic, Zvonimir
  • et al.

Point-like motile topological defects control the universal dynamics of diverse two-dimensional active nematics ranging from shaken granular rods to cellular monolayers. A comparable understanding in higher dimensions has yet to emerge. We report the creation of three-dimensional active nematics by dispersing extensile microtubule bundles in a passive colloidal liquid crystal. Light-sheet microscopy reveals the millimeter-scale structure of active nematics with a single bundle resolution and the temporal evolution of the associated nematic director field. The dominant excitations of three-dimensional active nematics are extended charge-neutral disclination loops that undergo complex dynamics and recombination events. These studies introduce a new class of non-equilibrium systems whose turbulent-like dynamics arises from the interplay between internally generated active stresses, the chaotic flows and the topological structure of the constituent defects.

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