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Spontaneous circulation of active microtubules confined by optical traps


We propose an experiment to demonstrate spontaneous ordering and symmetry breaking of kinesin-driven microtubules confined to an optical trap. Calculations involving the feasibility of such an experiment are first performed which analyze the power needed to confine microtubules and address heating concerns. We then present the results of first-principles simulations of active microtubules confined in such a trap and analyze the types of motion observed by the microtubules as well as the velocity of the surrounding fluid, both near the trap and in the far-field. We find three distinct phases characterized by breaking of distinct symmetries and also analyze the power spectrum of the angular momenta of polymers to further quantify the differences between these phases. Under the correct conditions, microtubules were found to spontaneously align with one another and circle the trap in one direction.

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