Spontaneous polarization and locomotion of an active particle with surface-mobile enzymes

Marco De Corato (Corresponding author), Ignacio Pagonabarraga, Loai K.E.A. Abdelmohsen, Samuel Sánchez, Marino Arroyo (Corresponding author)

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We examine a mechanism of locomotion of active particles whose surface is uniformly coated with mobile enzymes. The enzymes catalyze a reaction that drives phoretic flows but their homogeneous distribution forbids locomotion by symmetry. We find that the ability of the enzymes to migrate over the surface combined with self-phoresis can lead to a spontaneous symmetry-breaking instability whereby the homogeneous distribution of enzymes polarizes and the particle propels. The instability is driven by the advection of enzymes by the phoretic flows and occurs above a critical Péclet number. The transition to polarized motile states occurs via a supercritical or subcritical pitchfork bifurcations, the latter of which enables hysteresis and coexistence of uniform and polarized states.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122001
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2020

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