What is it about?

This work asks how a system will respond to a wide scale of perturbations, in order to build towards a universal model of material failure which can describe biological systems and disordered solids alike. To do so, we analyze the relationship between two models of material frustration: shear---a fundamentally global deformation---and a biologically inspired model which pushes each particle along its own preferred direction. Through the use of both numerical simulations and a mean-field theory, we show that these two very different actions produce broadly similar behaviors. Guided by a mean-field scaling relationship, we find that shear is simply a special limit of the active particle model.

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Why is it important?

This simple model provides new insight into questions about how microscopic interactions between particles influence bulk properties of disordered systems. In particular, it shows that shear is indistinguishable from an emergent collective behavior in active matter, when focusing on mean-field-like quantities. Thus the wide array of tools developed to analyze sheared glasses can be immediately modified to study active matter and biological systems.


I am excited about the directions this work opens by the implication that flocks of starlings and tectonic faults belong to the same class of material behavior. These results suggest that the tools of active matter can be of great use to glass physicists and that the tools of glass physics can be of great use to those studying active matter.

Peter Morse
Duke University

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This page is a summary of: A direct link between active matter and sheared granular systems, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2019909118.
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