Pattern formation in chemically interacting active rotors with self-propulsion

Liebchen, B ; Cates, Michael Elmhirst ; Marenduzzo, D (2016-09-21)


We demonstrate that active rotations in chemically signalling particles, such as autochemotactic $\textit{E. coli}$ close to walls, create a route for pattern formation based on a nonlinear yet deterministic instability mechanism. For slow rotations, we find a transient persistence of the uniform state, followed by a sudden formation of clusters contingent on locking of the average propulsion direction by chemotaxis. These clusters coarsen, which results in phase separation into a dense and a dilute region. Faster rotations arrest phase separation leading to a global travelling wave of rotors with synchronized roto-translational motion. Our results elucidate the physics resulting from the competition of two generic paradigms in active matter, chemotaxis and active rotations, and show that the latter provides a tool to design programmable self-assembly of active matter, for example to control coarsening.