Spontaneous polarization and locomotion of an active particle with surface-mobile enzymes

Author (s): De Corato, M., Pagonabarraga, I., Abdelmohsen, L.K.E.A., Sánchez, S., Arroyo, M
Journal: Physical Review Fluids

Volume: 5
Date: 2020

We examine a mechanism of locomotion of active particles whose surface is uniformly coated with mobile enzymes. The enzymes catalyze a reaction that drives phoretic flows but their homogeneous distribution forbids locomotion by symmetry. We find that the ability of the enzymes to migrate over the surface combined with self-phoresis can lead to a spontaneous symmetry-breaking instability whereby the homogeneous distribution of enzymes polarizes and the particle propels. The instability is driven by the advection of enzymes by the phoretic flows and occurs above a critical Péclet number. The transition to polarized motile states occurs via a supercritical or subcritical pitchfork bifurcations, the latter of which enables hysteresis and coexistence of uniform and polarized states.