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      Interplay of structure, elasticity, and dynamics in actin-based nematic materials

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      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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          Abstract

          Achieving control and tunability of lyotropic materials has been a long-standing goal of liquid crystal research. Here we show that the elasticity of a liquid crystal system consisting of a dense suspension of semiflexible biopolymers can be manipulated over a relatively wide range of elastic moduli. Specifically, thin films of actin filaments are assembled at an oil-water interface. At sufficiently high concentrations, one observes the formation of a nematic phase riddled with [Formula: see text] topological defects, characteristic of a two-dimensional nematic system. As the average filament length increases, the defect morphology transitions from a U shape into a V shape, indicating the relative increase of the material's bend over splay modulus. Furthermore, through the sparse addition of rigid microtubule filaments, one can gain additional control over the liquid crystal's elasticity. We show how the material's bend constant can be raised linearly as a function of microtubule filament density, and present a simple means to extract absolute values of the elastic moduli from purely optical observations. Finally, we demonstrate that it is possible to predict not only the static structure of the material, including its topological defects, but also the evolution of the system into dynamically arrested states. Despite the nonequilibrium nature of the system, our continuum model, which couples structure and hydrodynamics, is able to capture the annihilation and movement of defects over long time scales. Thus, we have experimentally realized a lyotropic liquid crystal system that can be truly engineered, with tunable mechanical properties, and a theoretical framework to capture its structure, mechanics, and dynamics.

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          Most cited references 43

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          I. Liquid crystals. On the theory of liquid crystals

           F. Frank (1958)
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            Discrete lattice effects on the forcing term in the lattice Boltzmann method

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              Fast liquid-crystal elastomer swims into the dark.

              Liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs) are rubbers whose constituent molecules are orientationally ordered. Their salient feature is strong coupling between the orientational order and mechanical strain. For example, changing the orientational order gives rise to internal stresses, which lead to strains and change the shape of a sample. Orientational order can be affected by changes in externally applied stimuli such as light. We demonstrate here that by dissolving-rather than covalently bonding-azo dyes into an LCE sample, its mechanical deformation in response to non-uniform illumination by visible light becomes very large (more than 60 degrees bending) and is more than two orders of magnitude faster than previously reported. Rapid light-induced deformations allow LCEs to interact with their environment in new and unexpected ways. When light from above is shone on a dye-doped LCE sample floating on water, the LCE 'swims' away from the light, with an action resembling that of flatfish such as skates or rays. We analyse the propulsion mechanism in terms of momentum transfer.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                January 09 2018
                January 09 2018
                January 09 2018
                December 28 2017
                : 115
                : 2
                : E124-E133
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1713832115
                5777046
                29284753
                © 2017

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