Colloidal dispersions in active and passive liquid crystalline fluids: a simulation study
In this thesis we study the physics of colloidal dispersions in active and passive liquid crystals by computer simulations. Liquid crystals are materials that exhibit long-range orientational order, with characteristics intermediate between the ones of simple, isotropic fluids and the ones of crystalline solids. Active fluids are suspensions of particles that continuously stir their ambient fluid. Like liquid crystals, active fluids undergo phase transitions to orientationally ordered phases. The framework that we apply here to describe them extends hydrodynamic equations for liquid crystals to the active case, in which their constituent particles exert local stresses on the simple fluid in which they are embedded. Studying systems of colloids embedded in these materials can be done with multiple aims. Here we use colloids as probe particles to investigate the rheological properties of active nematics. To do so we apply a constant force to a spherical particle embedded therein and define an effective viscosity, which we determine by measuring the velocity in steady state. We find an important dependence of the effective viscosity on the size of the particle, and a regime characterised by a steady state of negative drag. We also consider collective properties for systems of many colloids and analyse how they are affected by activity. We find that spontaneous flow can either hinder or favour colloidal aggregation, depending mainly on whether a fixed orientation of the liquid crystal is imposed close to the colloidal surface. This remains true independently of the initial condition chosen for the liquid crystal, which only affects the transition to spontaneous flow.