How many ways a cell can move: the modes of self-propulsion of an active drop
Numerous physical models have been proposed to explain how cell motility emerges from internal activity, mostly focused on how crawling motion arises from internal processes. Here we offer a classification of self-propulsion mechanisms based on general physical principles, showing that crawling is not the only way for cells to move on a substrate. We consider a thin drop of active matter on a planar substrate and fully characterize its autonomous motion for all three possible sources of driving: (i) the stresses induced in the bulk by active components, which allow in particular tractionless motion, (ii) the self-propulsion of active components at the substrate, which gives rise to crawling motion, and (iii) a net capillary force, possibly self-generated, and coupled to internal activity. We determine travelling-wave solutions to the lubrication equations as a function of a dimensionless activity parameter for each mode of motion. Numerical simulations are used to characterize the drop motion over a wide range of activity magnitudes, and explicit analytical solutions in excellent agreement with the simulations are derived in the weak-activity regime.