Numerical Treatment of the Boltzmann Equation for Self-Propelled Particle Systems


Florian Thüroff, Christoph A. Weber, and Erwin Frey. 2014. “Numerical Treatment of the Boltzmann Equation for Self-Propelled Particle Systems.” Phys. Rev. X, 4, Pp. 041030.


Kinetic theories constitute one of the most promising tools to decipher the characteristic spatiotemporal dynamics in systems of actively propelled particles. In this context, the Boltzmann equation plays a pivotal role, since it provides a natural translation between a particle-level description of the system?s dynamics and the corresponding hydrodynamic fields. Yet, the intricate mathematical structure of the Boltzmann equation substantially limits the progress toward a full understanding of this equation by solely analytical means. Here, we propose a general framework to numerically solve the Boltzmann equation for self-propelled particle systems in two spatial dimensions and with arbitrary boundary conditions. We discuss potential applications of this numerical framework to active matter systems and use the algorithm to give a detailed analysis to a model system of self-propelled particles with polar interactions. In accordance with previous studies, we find that spatially homogeneous isotropic and broken-symmetry states populate two distinct regions in parameter space, which are separated by a narrow region of spatially inhomogeneous, density-segregated moving patterns. We find clear evidence that these three regions in parameter space are connected by first-order phase transitions and that the transition between the spatially homogeneous isotropic and polar ordered phases bears striking similarities to liquid-gas phase transitions in equilibrium systems. Within the density-segregated parameter regime, we find a novel stable limit-cycle solution of the Boltzmann equation, which consists of parallel lanes of polar clusters moving in opposite directions, so as to render the overall symmetry of the system?s ordered state nematic, despite purely polar interactions on the level of single particles.