Phase coexistence of active Brownian particles

S. Hermann, P. Krinninger, D. de las Heras, and M. Schmidt
Phys. Rev. E, 100, 052604, (2019)     DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.100.052604
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We investigate motility-induced phase separation of active Brownian particles, which are modeled as purely repulsive spheres that move due to a constant swim force with freely diffusing orientation. We develop on the basis of power functional concepts an analytical theory for nonequilibrium phase coexistence and interfacial structure. Theoretical predictions are validated against Brownian dynamics computer simulations. We show that the internal one-body force field has four nonequilibrium contributions: (i) isotropic drag and (ii) interfacial drag forces against the forward motion, (iii) a superadiabatic spherical pressure gradient, and (iv) the quiet life gradient force. The intrinsic spherical pressure is balanced by the swim pressure, which arises from the polarization of the free interface. The quiet life force opposes the adiabatic force, which is due to the inhomogeneous density distribution. The balance of quiet life and adiabatic forces determines bulk coexistence via equality of two bulk state functions, which are independent of interfacial contributions. The internal force fields are kinematic functionals which depend on density and current but are independent of external and swim forces, consistent with power functional theory. The phase transition originates from nonequilibrium repulsion, with the agile gas being more repulsive than the quiet liquid.

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