Hydrodynamics Defines the Stable Swimming Direction of Spherical Squirmers in a Nematic Liquid Crystal
AbstractWe present a study of the hydrodynamics of an active particle—a model squirmer—in an environment with a broken rotational symmetry: a nematic liquid crystal. By combining simulations with analytic calculations, we show that the hydrodynamic coupling between the squirmer flow field and liquid crystalline director can lead to reorientation of the swimmers. The preferred orientation depends on the exact details of the squirmer flow field. In a steady state, pushers are shown to swim parallel with the nematic director while pullers swim perpendicular to the nematic director. This behavior arises solely from hydrodynamic coupling between the squirmer flow field and anisotropic viscosities of the host fluid. Our results suggest that an anisotropic swimming medium can be used to characterize and guide spherical microswimmers in the bulk.