Light-activated microtubule-based two-dimensional active nematic.
Abstract: We assess the ability of two light responsive kinesin motor clusters to drive dynamics of microtubule-based active nematics: opto-K401, a processive motor, and opto-K365, a non-processive motor. Measurements reveal an order of magnitude improvement in the contrast of nematic flow speeds between maximally- and minimally-illuminated states for opto-K365 motors when compared to opto-K401 construct. For opto-K365 nematics, we characterize both the steady-state flow and defect density as a function of applied light. We also examine the transient behavior as the system switches between steady-states upon changes in light intensities. Although nematic flows reach a steady state within tens of seconds, the defect density exhibits transient behavior for up to 10 minutes, showing a separation between small-scale active flows and system-scale structural states. Our work establishes an experimental platform that can exploit spatiotemporally-heterogeneous patterns of activity to generate targeted dynamical states.