Coarsening dynamics of binary liquids with active rotation†
Active matter comprised of many self-driven units can exhibit emergent collective behaviors such as pattern formation and phase separation in both biological (e.g., mussel beds) and synthetic (e.g., colloidal swimmers) systems. While these behaviors are increasingly well understood for ensembles of linearly self-propelled “particles”, less is known about the collective behaviors of active rotating particles where energy input at the particle level gives rise to rotational particle motion. A recent simulation study revealed that active rotation can induce phase separation in mixtures of counter-rotating particles in 2D. In contrast to that of linearly self-propelled particles, the phase separation of counter-rotating fluids is accompanied by steady convective flows that originate at the fluid–fluid interface. Here, we investigate the influence of these flows on the coarsening dynamics of actively rotating binary liquids using a phenomenological, hydrodynamic model that combines a Cahn–Hilliard equation for the fluid composition with a Navier–Stokes equation for the fluid velocity. The effect of active rotation is introduced though an additional force within the Navier–Stokes equations that arises due to gradients in the concentrations of clockwise and counter-clockwise rotating particles. Depending on the strength of active rotation and that of frictional interactions with the stationary surroundings, we observe and explain new dynamical behaviors such as “active coarsening” via self-generated flows as well as the emergence of self-propelled “vortex doublets”. We confirm that many of the qualitative behaviors identified by the continuum model can also be found in discrete, particle-based simulations of actively rotating liquids. Our results highlight further opportunities for achieving complex dissipative structures in active materials subject to distributed actuation.