Active transport in a channel: stabilisation by flow or thermodynamics
Recent experiments on active materials, such as dense bacterial suspensions and microtubule–kinesin motor mixtures, show a promising potential for achieving self-sustained flows. However, to develop active microfluidics it is necessary to understand the behaviour of active systems confined to channels. Therefore here we use continuum simulations to investigate the behaviour of active fluids in a two-dimensional channel. Motivated by the fact that most experimental systems show no ordering in the absence of activity, we concentrate on temperatures where there is no nematic order in the passive system, so that any nematic order is induced by the active flow. We systematically analyze the results, identify several different stable flow states, provide a phase diagram and show that the key parameters controlling the flow are the ratio of channel width to the length scale of active flow vortices, and whether the system is flow aligning or flow tumbling.