Fluctuation-Induced First Order Transition to Collective Motion

Preprint, 2024


The nature of the transition to collective motion in assemblies of aligning self-propelled particles remains a long-standing matter of debate. In this article, we focus on dry active matter and show that weak fluctuations suffice to generically turn second-order mean-field transitions into a "discontinuous" coexistence scenario. Our theory shows how fluctuations induce a density-dependence of the polar-field mass, even when this effect is absent at mean-field level. In turn, this dependency on density triggers a feedback loop between ordering and advection that ultimately leads to an inhomogeneous transition to collective motion and the emergence of non-linear travelling "flocks". Importantly, we show that such a fluctuation-induced first order transition is present in both metric models, in which particles align with neighbors within a finite distance, and in topological ones, in which alignment is not based on relative distances. We compute analytically the noise-induced renormalization of the polar-field mass using stochastic calculus, which we further back up by a one-loop field-theoretical analysis. Finally, we confirm our analytical predictions by numerical simulations of fluctuating hydrodynamics as well as of topological microscopic models with either k-nearest neighbors or Voronoi alignment.

Recommended citation: "Fluctuation-Induced First Order Transition to Collective Motion", D. Martin, G. Spera, H. Chaté, C. Duclut, C. Nardini, J. Tailleur, F. van Wijland , arXiv:2402.05078 (2024). https://arxiv.org/abs/2402.05078

arXiv version [pdf]