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Flocking by turning away

Suchismita DasMatteo CiarchiZiqi ZhouJing YanJie ZhangRicard Alert
Jan 2024
Flocking, as paradigmatically exemplified by birds, is the coherent collective motion of active agents. As originally conceived, flocking emerges through alignment interactions between the agents. Here, we report that flocking can also emerge through interactions that turn agents away from each other. Combining simulations, kinetic theory, and experiments, we demonstrate this mechanism of flocking in self-propelled Janus colloids with stronger repulsion on the front than on the rear. The polar state is stable because particles achieve a compromise between turning away from left and right neighbors. Unlike for alignment interactions, the emergence of polar order from turn-away interactions requires particle repulsion. At high concentration, repulsion produces flocking Wigner crystals. Whereas repulsion often leads to motility-induced phase separation of active particles, here it combines with turn-away torques to produce flocking. Therefore, our findings bridge the classes of aligning and non-aligning active matter. Our results could help to reconcile the observations that cells can flock despite turning away from each other via contact inhibition of locomotion. Overall, our work shows that flocking is a very robust phenomenon that arises even when the orientational interactions would seem to prevent it.
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