Onset of meso-scale turbulence in active nematics

A. Doostmohammadi, T.N. Shendruk, K. Thijssen, J.M. Yeomans

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Meso-scale turbulence is an innate phenomenon, distinct from inertial turbulence, that spontaneously occurs at low Reynolds number in fluidized biological systems. This spatiotemporal disordered flow radically changes nutrient and molecular transport in living fluids and can strongly affect the collective behaviour in prominent biological processes, including biofilm formation, morphogenesis and cancer invasion. Despite its crucial role in such physiological processes, understanding meso-scale turbulence and any relation to classical inertial turbulence remains obscure. Here we show how the motion of active matter along a micro-channel transitions to meso-scale turbulence through the evolution of locally disordered patches (active puffs) from an ordered vortex-lattice flow state. We demonstrate that the stationary critical exponents of this transition to meso-scale turbulence in a channel coincide with the directed percolation universality class. This finding bridges our understanding of the onset of low-Reynolds-number meso-scale turbulence and traditional scale-invariant turbulence in confinement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15326
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017


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