Collective motion dynamics of active solids and active crystals

Ferrante E., TURGUT A. E., Dorigo M., Huepe C.

NEW JOURNAL OF PHYSICS, vol.15, 2013 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 15
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.1088/1367-2630/15/9/095011
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


We introduce a simple model of self-propelled particles connected by linear springs that describes a semi-rigid formation of active agents without explicit alignment rules. The model displays a discontinuous transition at a critical noise level, below which the group self-organizes into a collectively translating or rotating state. We identify a novel elasticity-based mechanism that cascades self-propulsion energy towards lower-energy modes as responsible for such collective motion and illustrate it by computing the spectral decomposition of the elastic energy. We study the model's convergence dynamics as a function of system size and derive analytical stability conditions for the translating state in a continuous elastic sheet approximation. We explore the dynamics of a ring-shaped configuration and of local angular perturbations of an aligned state. We show that the elasticity-based mechanism achieves collective motion even in cases with heterogeneous self-propulsion speeds. Given its robustness, simplicity and ubiquity, this mechanism could play a relevant role in various biological and artificial swarms.