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Three-dimensional nonlinear dynamics of prestressed active filaments: Flapping, swirling, and flipping.

Abstract

Initially straight slender elastic filaments or rods with constrained ends buckle and form stable two-dimensional shapes when prestressed by bringing the ends together. Beyond a critical value of this prestress, rods can also deform off plane and form twisted three-dimensional equilibrium shapes. Here, we analyze the three-dimensional instabilities and dynamics of such deformed filaments subject to nonconservative active follower forces and fluid drag. We find that softly constrained filaments that are clamped at one end and pinned at the other exhibit stable two-dimensional planar flapping oscillations when active forces are directed toward the clamped end. Reversing the directionality of the forces quenches the instability. For strongly constrained filaments with both ends clamped, computations reveal an instability arising from the twist-bend-activity coupling. Planar oscillations are destabilized by off-planar perturbations resulting in twisted three-dimensional swirling patterns interspersed with periodic flipping or reversal of the swirling direction. These striking swirl-flip transitions are characterized by two distinct timescales: the time period for a swirl (rotation) and the time between flipping events. We interpret these reversals as relaxation oscillation events driven by accumulation of torsional energy. Each cycle is initiated by a fast jump in torsional deformation with a subsequent slow decrease in net torsion until the next cycle. Our work reveals the rich tapestry of spatiotemporal patterns when weakly inertial strongly damped rods are deformed by nonconservative active forces. Taken together, our results suggest avenues by which prestress, elasticity, and activity may be used to design synthetic macroscale pumps or mixers.

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