Presentation by A. Callegari at SPIE-OTOM, San Diego, 21 August 2023

One exemplar of the HEXBUGS used in the experiment. (Image by the Authors of the manuscript.)
Playing with Active Matter
Angelo Barona Balda, Aykut Argun, Agnese Callegari, Giovanni Volpe
SPIE-OTOM, San Diego, CA, USA, 20 – 24 August 2023
Date: 21 August 2023

In the last 20 years, active matter has been a very successful research field, bridging the fundamental physics of nonequilibrium thermodynamics with applications in robotics, biology, and medicine. This field deals with active particles, which, differently from passive Brownian particles, can harness energy to generate complex motions and emerging behaviors. Most active-matter experiments are performed with microscopic particles and require advanced microfabrication and microscopy techniques. Here, we propose some macroscopic experiments with active matter employing commercially available toy robots, i.e., the Hexbugs. We demonstrate how they can be easily modified to perform regular and chiral active Brownian motion. We also show that Hexbugs can interact with passive objects present in their environment and, depending on their shape, set them in motion and rotation. Furthermore, we show that, by introducing obstacles in the environment, we can sort the robots based on their motility and chirality. Finally, we demonstrate the emergence of Casimir-like activity-induced attraction between planar objects in the presence of active particles in the environment.

Angelo Barona Balda, Aykut Argun, Agnese Callegari, Giovanni Volpe, Playing with Active Matter, arXiv: 2209.04168

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