Living liquid crystals

Igor Aronson

Materials Science Division

Argonne National Laboratory




Placement of swimming bacteria in lyotropic liquid crystal, a water dispersion of elongated aggregates of organic molecules, produces a new class of biomechanical systems - living liquid crystal (LLC). This new hybrid material synergistically combines the properties of both constituents: biological response to external stimuli and long-range order due to anisotropy. LLC displays a wide range of fundamentally new phenomena, from the emergence of self-organized textures caused by bacterial swimming to direct optical visualization of flagella rotation and the liquid crystal-controlled trajectories of bacterial motion. LLC sheds new light on self-organization in active biomechanical systems and can possibly lead to valuable biomedical applications.