Active motion of multiphase oil droplets: emergent dynamics of squirmers with evolving internal structure†
Synthetic soft matter systems, when driven beyond equilibrium by active processes, offer the potential to achieve dynamical states and functions of a complexity found in living matter. Emulsions offer the basis of a simple yet versatile system for identification of the physicochemical principles underlying active soft matter, but how multiple internal phases within emulsion droplets (e.g., Janus morphologies) organize to impact emergent dynamics is not understood. Here, we create multiphase oil droplets with ultralow interfacial tensions but distinct viscosities, and drive them into motion in aqueous micellar solutions. Preferential solubilization of select components of the oil both drives the droplet motion and yields a progression of internal phase morphological states with distinct symmetries. We find the active droplets to exhibit five dynamical states during morphogenesis. By quantifying microscopic flow fields, we show that it is possible to map the diverse droplet behaviors to squirmer models of spherical microswimmers in Stokes flow, thus showing that multiphase droplets offer the basis of a versatile platform with which to study and engineer the hydrodynamics of microswimmers.