Capillary Interfacial Tension in Active Phase Separation

Fausti, G.; Tjhung, Elsen; Cates, M. E. and Nardini, C. (2021). Capillary Interfacial Tension in Active Phase Separation. Physical Review Letters, 127(6), article no. 068001.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.127.068001

Abstract

In passive fluid-fluid phase separation, a single interfacial tension sets both the capillary fluctuations of the interface and the rate of Ostwald ripening. We show that these phenomena are governed by two different tensions in active systems, and compute the capillary tension σ_cw which sets the relaxation rate of interfacial fluctuations in accordance with capillary wave theory. We discover that strong enough activity can cause negative σ_cw. In this regime, depending on the global composition, the system self-organizes, either into a microphase-separated state in which coalescence is highly inhibited, or into an “active foam” state. Our results are obtained for Active Model B+, a minimal continuum model which, although generic, admits significant analytical progress.

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