Chemomechanical origin of directed locomotion driven by internal chemical signals

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Science Advances  01 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 18, eaaz9125
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz9125


Asymmetry in the interaction between an individual and its environment is generally considered essential for the directional properties of active matter, but can directional locomotions and their transitions be generated only from intrinsic chemical dynamics and its modulation? Here, we examine this question by simulating the locomotion of a bioinspired active gel in a homogeneous environment. We find that autonomous directional locomotion emerges in the absence of asymmetric interaction with the environment and that a transition between modes of gel locomotion can be induced by adjusting the spatially uniform intensity of illumination or certain kinetic and mechanical system parameters. The internal wave dynamics and its structural modulation act as the impetus for signal-driven active locomotion in a manner similar to the way in which an animal’s locomotion is generated via driving by nerve pulses. Our results may have implications for the development of soft robots and biomimetic materials.

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