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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Jun 29;108(26):268303. Epub 2012 Jun 26.

Dynamic clustering in active colloidal suspensions with chemical signaling.

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LPMCN, Université Lyon 1 and CNRS, UMR 5586, Université de Lyon; F-69622 Villeurbanne, France.


In this Letter, we explore experimentally the phase behavior of a dense active suspension of self-propelled colloids. In addition to a solidlike and gaslike phase observed for high and low densities, a novel cluster phase is reported at intermediate densities. This takes the form of a stationary assembly of dense aggregates-resulting from a permanent dynamical merging and separation of active colloids-whose average size grows with activity as a linear function of the self-propelling velocity. While different possible scenarios can be considered to account for these observations-such as a generic velocity weakening instability recently put forward-we show that the experimental results are reproduced mathematically by a chemotactic aggregation mechanism, originally introduced to account for bacterial aggregation and accounting here for diffusiophoretic chemical interaction between colloidal swimmers.

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