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Boundary Effects in Active Matter Systems

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

he study of collective properties of active matter is a fast-emerging interdisciplinary research field. Collections of interacting active particles describe the collective motion (or “flocking”) observed in systems as diverse as vertebrate groups (bird flocks, fish schools, mammal herds, etc.), insect swarms, colonies of bacteria, molecular motors, as well as driven granular matter.

So far, active matter has been mainly studied in the bulk, addressing large systems and disregarding the effects of the border. In many finite systems of biological (i.e. bird flocks) or experimental interests (i.e. active colloids), however, boundary effects cannot be easily disregarded and could indeed impact the bulk dynamics.

This theoretical project, at the forefront of active matter research, will investigate the effects of boundaries in finite flocking systems making use of both analytical methods and direct numerical simulations.

Subject Areas: Theoretical Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Fluid Dynamics, Biophysics, Applied Mathematics

Active particles are able to extract and dissipate energy from their surroundings to produce systematic and coherent motion.
The study of collective properties of active matter is a fast-emerging interdisciplinary research field, which links out-of-equilibrium statistical physics (phase transitions, fluctuations, etc.) with biological (cellular biology, cooperative behavior in bacteria, animal behavior of large social groups) as well as engineering-related topics (swarm intelligence, communication networks of moving agents).

Collections of interacting active particles describe the collective motion (or “flocking”) observed in systems as diverse as vertebrate groups (bird flocks, fish schools, mammal herds, etc.), insect swarms, colonies of bacteria, molecular motors, as well as driven granular matter.

So far, active matter has been mainly studied in the bulk, addressing large systems and disregarding the effects of the border. In many finite systems of biological or experimental interests, however, boundary effects cannot be easily disregarded.

Many bird flocks or fish schools, for instance, are composed by no more than a few thousands or even hundreds of animals, and a rather sharp, free boundary enclosing the group can be easily defined. Numerical models have shown indeed that an effective surface tension is needed to maintain the group cohesion.

The active colloidal particles studied in many experiments, on the other hand, are almost invariably confined by hard boundaries, which often constrain and orient the collective motion. The nature of this boundary-induced symmetry breaking needs to be clarified in order to better understand and interpret experimental results.

In this project, we will study the effects that both free and hard boundaries have on the bulk dynamics of flocking systems making use of direct numerical simulations of microscopic models and studying hydrodynamic theories with the proper boundary conditions.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Physics or related discipline along with an MSc in the same subjects.

It is essential that candidates have a background in Statistical Physics along with knowledge of Numerical simulation.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:

• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV
• Details of 2 academic referees

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr F Ginelli () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of physics. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THESE PROJECTS. Applicants should also be aware that Additional Research Costs of £1,000 per annum for travel to conferences and £2,000 (total) for specialist computer software, are required (above Tuition Fees and Living Expenses).

References

• S. Ramaswamy, The Mechanics and Statistics of Active Matter, Annu. Rev. Cond. Mat. Phys. 1, 323 (2010)
• F. Ginelli, The Physics of the Vicsek Model, EPJ ST 225 2099 (2016)
• N. Kyriakopoulos, F. Ginelli, J. Toner, Leading birds by the beak: response of flocks to external perturbations, New Journal of Physics, 18, 073039 (2016).
• D. Ray, C. Reichhardt, C.J. Olson-Reichhardt, Casimir effect in active matter systems, Phys Rev E 90 012019 (2014)

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