Dynamics of a spherical self-propelled tracer in a polymeric medium: interplay of self-propulsion, stickiness, and crowding†
We employ computer simulations to study the dynamics of a self-propelled spherical tracer particle in a viscoelastic medium, made of a long polymer chain. Here, the interplay between viscoelasticity, stickiness, and activity (self-propulsion) brings additional complexity to the tracer dynamics. Our simulations show that on increasing the stickiness of the tracer particle to the polymer beads, the dynamics of the tracer particle slows down as it gets stuck to the polymer chain and moves along with it. But with increasing self-propulsion velocity, the dynamics gets enhanced. In the case of increasing stickiness as well as activity, the non-Gaussian parameter (NGP) exhibits non-monotonic behavior, which also shows up in the re-scaled self part of the van-Hove function. Non-Gaussianity results owing to the enhanced binding events and the sticky motion of the tracer along with the chain with increasing stickiness. On the other hand, with increasing activity, initially non-Gaussianity increases as the tracer moves through the heterogeneous polymeric environment but for higher activity, the tracer escapes resulting in a negative NGP. For higher values of stickiness, the trapping time distributions of the passive tracer particle broaden and have long tails. On the other hand, for a given stickiness with increasing self-propulsion force, the trapping time distributions become narrower and have short tails. We believe that our current simulation study will be helpful in elucidating the complex motion of activity-driven probes in viscoelastic media.