Distinct impacts of polar and nematic self-propulsion on active unjamming

V Venkatesh and C Mondal and A Doostmohammadi, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 157, 164901 (2022).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0103499

Though jamming transitions are long studied in condensed matter physics and granular systems, much less is known about active jamming (or unjamming), which commonly takes place in living materials. In this paper, we explore, by molecular dynamic simulations, the jamming- unjamming transition in a dense system of active semi-flexible filaments. In particular we characterise the distinct impact of polar versus nematic driving for different filament rigidity and at varying density. Our results show that high densities of dynamic active filaments can be achieved by only changing the nature of the active force, nematic or polar. Interestingly, while polar driving is more effective at unjamming the system at high densities below confluency, we find that at even higher densities nematic driving enhances unjamming compared to its polar counterpart. The effect of varying the rigidity of filaments is also significantly different in the two cases: while for nematic driving lowering bending rigidity unjams the system, we find an intriguing re-entrant jamming-unjamming-jamming transition for polar driving as the filament rigidity is lowered. While the first transition (unjamming) is driven by softening due to reduced rigidity, the second transition (jamming) is a cooperative effect of ordering and coincides with the emergence of nematic order in the system. Together, through a generic model of self-propelled flexible filaments, our results demonstrate how tuning the nature of self-propulsion and flexibility can be employed by active materials to achieve high densities without getting jammed. Published under an exclusive license by AIP Publishing.

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