We numerically study the dynamics of a passive fluid droplet confined within a microchannel whose walls are covered with a thin layer of active gel. The latter represents a fluid of extensile material modelling, for example, a suspension of cytoskeletal filaments and molecular motors. Our results show that the layer is capable of producing a spontaneous flow triggering a rectilinear motion of the passive droplet. For a hybrid design (a single wall covered by the active layer), at the steady state the droplet attains an elliptical shape, resulting from an asymmetric saw-toothed structure of the velocity field. In contrast, if the active gel covers both walls, the velocity field exhibits a fully symmetric pattern considerably mitigating morphological deformations. We further show that the structure of the spontaneous flow in the microchannel can be controlled by the anchoring conditions of the active gel at the wall. These findings are also confirmed by selected 3D simulations. Our results may stimulate further research addressed to design novel microfludic devices whose functioning relies on the collective properties of active gels.
Tiribocchi, A., Durve, M., Lauricella, M., Montessori, A., Succi, S. (2023). Spontaneous motion of a passive fluid droplet in an active microchannel. SOFT MATTER, 19(34), 6556-6568 [10.1039/d3sm00561e].