Submersed micropatterned structures control active nematic flow, topology, and concentration
PNAS September 21, 2021 118 (38) e2106038118; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2106038118
Coupling between flows and material properties imbues rheological matter with its wide-ranging applicability, hence the excitement for harnessing the rheology of active fluids for which internal structure and continuous energy injection lead to spontaneous flows and complex, out-of-equilibrium dynamics. We propose and demonstrate a convenient, highly tunable method for controlling flow, topology, and composition within active films. Our approach establishes rheological coupling via the indirect presence of fully submersed micropatterned structures within a thin, underlying oil layer. Simulations reveal that micropatterned structures produce effective virtual boundaries within the superjacent active nematic film due to differences in viscous dissipation as a function of depth. This accessible method of applying position-dependent, effective dissipation to the active films presents a nonintrusive pathway for engineering active microfluidic systems.