Contractile and chiral activities codetermine the helicity of swimming droplet trajectories
Active fluids are a class of nonequilibrium systems where energy is injected into the system continuously by the constituent particles themselves. Many examples, such as bacterial suspensions and actomyosin networks, are intrinsically chiral at a local scale, so that their activity involves torque dipoles alongside the force dipoles usually considered. Although many aspects of active fluids have been studied, the effects of chirality on them are much less known. Here, we study by computer simulation the dynamics of an unstructured droplet of chiral active fluid in three dimensions. Our model considers only the simplest possible combination of chiral and achiral active stresses, yet this leads to an unprecedented range of complex motilities, including oscillatory swimming, helical swimming, and run-and-tumble motion. Strikingly, whereas the chirality of helical swimming is the same as the microscopic chirality of torque dipoles in one regime, the two are opposite in another. Some of the features of these motility modes resemble those of some single-celled protozoa, suggesting that underlying mechanisms may be shared by some biological systems and synthetic active droplets.