Ocko, Samuel A., and L. Mahadevan. 2015. “Feedback-Induced Phase Transitions in Active Heterogeneous Conductors.” Physical Review Letters 114 (13) (April). doi:10.1103/physrevlett.114.134501.
An active conducting medium is one where the resistance (conductance) of the medium is modified by the current (flow) and in turn modifies the flow, so that the classical linear laws relating current and resistance, e.g., Ohm’s law or Darcy’s law, are modified over time as the system itself evolves. We consider a minimal model for this feedback coupling in terms of two parameters that characterize the way in which addition or removal of matter follows a simple local (or nonlocal) feedback rule corresponding to either flow-seeking or flow-avoiding behavior. Using numerical simulations and a continuum mean field theory, we show that flow avoiding feedback causes an initially uniform system to become strongly heterogeneous via a tunneling (channel-building) phase separation; flow-seeking feedback leads to an immuring (wallbuilding) phase separation. Our results provide a qualitative explanation for the patterning of active conducting media in natural systems, while suggesting ways to realize complex architectures using simple rules in engineered systems.
Funding: For partial financial
support, we thank the Henry W. Kendall physics
fellowship (S. O), the Wyss Institute and the MacArthur
Foundation (L. M) and Human Frontiers Science Program
Grant No. RGP0066/2012-TURNER (S. O., L.M.).