Antipolar ordering of topological defects in active liquid crystals
Recent experiments in the laboratory of Zvonimir Dogic (UC Santa Barbara) demonstrated that microtubule-motor protein assemblies can self-assemble into an active liquid crystal phase that exhibits a rich topological defect dynamics. This remarkable discovery has sparked considerable theoretical and experimental interest. I will present and validate a tensor Swift-Hohenberg PDE model for this system by merging universality ideas with the classical Landau-de Gennes theory. The resulting model agrees quantitatively with recently published data and, in particular, predicts a previously unexplained regime of antipolar order of topological defects. Our results suggest that complex nonequilibrium pattern-formation phenomena might be predictable from a few fundamental symmetry-breaking and scale-selection principles.