Hydrodynamic self-assembly of active colloids: chiral spinners and dynamic crystals†
Active colloids self-organise into a variety of collective states, ranging from highly motile “molecules” to complex 2D structures. Using large-scale simulations, we show that hydrodynamic interactions, together with a gravity-like aligning field, lead to tunable self-assembly of active colloidal spheres near a surface. The observed structures depend on the hydrodynamic characteristics: particles driven at the front, pullers, form small chiral spinners consisting of two or three particles, whereas those driven at the rear, pushers, assemble into large dynamic aggregates. The rotational motion of the puller spinners, arises from spontaneous breaking of the internal chirality. Our results show that the fluid flow mediates chiral transfer between neighbouring spinners. Finally we show that the chirality of the individual spinners controls the topology of the self-assembly in solution: homochiral samples assemble into a hexagonally symmetric 2D crystal lattice while racemic mixtures show reduced hexatic order with diffusion-like dynamics.