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Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Mar 13;102(10):108001. Epub 2009 Mar 13.

Trafficlike collective movement of ants on trails: absence of a jammed phase.

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Institut für Theoretische Physik, Universität zu Köln, D-50937 Köln, Germany.


We report experimental results on unidirectional trafficlike collective movement of ants on trails. Our work is primarily motivated by fundamental questions on the collective spatiotemporal organization in systems of interacting motile constituents driven far from equilibrium. Making use of the analogies with vehicular traffic, we analyze our experimental data for the spatiotemporal organization of ants on a trail. From this analysis, we extract the flow-density relation as well as the distributions of velocities of the ants and distance headways. Some of our observations are consistent with our earlier models of ant traffic, which are appropriate extensions of the asymmetric simple exclusion process. In sharp contrast to highway traffic and most other transport processes, the average velocity of the ants is almost independent of their density on the trail. Consequently, no jammed phase is observed.

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