Memory-Induced Transition from a Persistent Random Walk to Circular Motion for Achiral Microswimmers

Phys. Rev. Lett. 121, 078003 (2018)

We experimentally study the motion of light-activated colloidal microswimmers in a viscoelastic fluid. We find that, in such a non-Newtonian environment, the active colloids undergo an unexpected transition from enhanced angular diffusion to persistent rotational motion above a critical propulsion speed, despite their spherical shape and stiffness. We observe that, in contrast to chiral asymmetric microswimmers, the resulting circular orbits can spontaneously reverse their sense of rotation and exhibit an angular velocity and a radius of curvature that nonlinearly depend on the propulsion speed. By means of a minimal non-Markovian Langevin model for active Brownian motion, we show that these nonequilibrium effects emerge from the delayed response of the fluid with respect to the self-propulsion of the particle without counterpart in Newtonian fluids.