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Nat Commun. 2015 Jun 19;6:7470. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8470.

Emergent vortices in populations of colloidal rollers.

Author information

1
Laboratoire de Physique de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Université de Lyon and CNRS, 46, allée d'Italie, Lyon F-69007, France.
2
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093-0411, USA.
3
Department of Physics, Kyushu University 33, Fukuoka 812-8581, Japan.
4
1] Department for Theoretical Physics, Odessa National University, Dvoryanskaya 2, Odessa 65026, Ukraine [2] Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Laboratoire J.A. Dieudonné, UMR 7351 CNRS, Parc Valrose, Nice F-06108, France.
5
Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Laboratoire J.A. Dieudonné, UMR 7351 CNRS, Parc Valrose, Nice F-06108, France.

Abstract

Coherent vortical motion has been reported in a wide variety of populations including living organisms (bacteria, fishes, human crowds) and synthetic active matter (shaken grains, mixtures of biopolymers), yet a unified description of the formation and structure of this pattern remains lacking. Here we report the self-organization of motile colloids into a macroscopic steadily rotating vortex. Combining physical experiments and numerical simulations, we elucidate this collective behaviour. We demonstrate that the emergent-vortex structure lives on the verge of a phase separation, and single out the very constituents responsible for this state of polar active matter. Building on this observation, we establish a continuum theory and lay out a strong foundation for the description of vortical collective motion in a broad class of motile populations constrained by geometrical boundaries.

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