Chemotactic self-caging in active emulsions

Babak Vajdi Hokmabad, Jaime Agudo-Canalejo, Suropriya Saha, Ramin Golestanian*, Corinna C. Maass

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


A common feature of biological self-organization is how active agents communicate with each other or their environment via chemical signaling. Such communications, mediated by self-generated chemical gradients, have consequences for both individual motility strategies and collective migration patterns. Here, in a purely physicochemical system, we use self-propelling droplets as a model for chemically active particles that modify their environment by leaving chemical footprints, which act as chemorepulsive signals to other droplets. We analyze this communication mechanism quantitatively both on the scale of individual agent-trail collisions as well as on the collective scale where droplets actively remodel their environment while adapting their dynamics to that evolving chemical landscape. We show in experiment and simulation how these interactions cause a transient dynamical arrest in active emulsions where swimmers are caged between each other's trails of secreted chemicals. Our findings provide insight into the collective dynamics of chemically active particles and yield principles for predicting how negative autochemotaxis shapes their navigation strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2122269119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
Early online date9 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2022


  • Active matter
  • Caging
  • Chemotaxis
  • Microswimmers
  • Self-propelling droplets


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