PerspectiveLIQUID CRYSTALS

Rings rule three-dimensional active matter

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Science  06 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6482, pp. 1075-1076
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba5319

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Summary

We are active matter, in that we move and deform on our own without resorting to external forces. During the past 10 years, fluids and soft solids have been turned into active matter animated by spontaneous flows and deformations, usually by seeding a fluid with self-propelled units that convert chemical or electric energy into directed motion. Animated by spontaneous flows and deformations driven from within, active fluids are usually powered by dispersing active particles that self-assemble into coherent dynamical structures. Active materials—including polymer gels, liquid emulsions, or colloidal suspensions with mesmerizing emergent dynamics (13)—have been mostly limited to two-dimensional (2D) materials. However, thin films are unlikely to host more than a small fraction of the full complexity of active matter. On page 1120 of this issue, Duclos et al. (4) report the synthesis and the observation of 3D active liquid crystals (see the image) and elucidate the elementary excitations responsible for their complex inner dynamics.

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