Irreversibility and emergent structure in active matter

Active matter is rapidly becoming a key paradigm of out-of-equilibrium soft matter exhibiting complex collective phenomena, yet the thermodynamics of such systems remain poorly understood. In this article we study the dynamical irreversibility of large scale active systems capable of motility-induced phase separation and polar alignment. We use a model with momenta in both translational and rotational degrees of freedom, revealing a hidden component not previously reported in the literature. Steady state irreversibility is quantified at each point in the phase diagram which exhibits sharp discontinuities at phase transitions. Identification of the irreversibility in individual particles lays the groundwork for discussion of the thermodynamics of micro-features, such as defects in the emergent structure. The interpretation of the time reversal symmetry in the dynamics of the particles is found to be crucial.


Irreversibility and emergent structure in active matter
Phys. Rev. E
Emanuele Crosato, Mikhail Prokopenko, and Richard E. Spinney