Shape formation in active liquid crystals by topological defects

a) Topological defect: aster. Gray lines: director field. Red circle: defect center. b) Aster in myoblast cell monolayers. Scale bar 50 μm. Image courtesy of P. Guillamat. c) Topological defects can generate shapes.


Morphogenesis establishes shapes of tissues during development. Tissues often exhibit characteristics of liquid crystals, such as long-range orientational order and topological defects. However, the linkage between these features and the formation of shape remains mostly unexplored, specifically at the scales relevant for morphogenesis. Using concepts from non-equilibrium thermodynamics and soft matter, this project aims at understanding how the interplay between geometry, orientational order and out-of-equilibrium processes can generate shapes in soft surfaces.