Emergent Field-Driven Robot Swarm States

Gao Wang, Trung V. Phan, Shengkai Li, Michael Wombacher, Junle Qu, Yan Peng, Guo Chen, Daniel I. Goldman, Simon A. Levin, Robert H. Austin, Liyu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


We present an ecology-inspired form of active matter consisting of a robot swarm. Each robot moves over a planar dynamic resource environment represented by a large light-emitting diode array in search of maximum light intensity; the robots deplete (dim) locally by their presence the local light intensity and seek maximum light intensity. Their movement is directed along the steepest local light intensity gradient; we call this emergent symmetry breaking motion "field drive."We show there emerge dynamic and spatial transitions similar to gas, crystalline, liquid, glass, and jammed states as a function of robot density, resource consumption rates, and resource recovery rates. Paradoxically the nongas states emerge from smooth, flat resource landscapes, not rough ones, and each state can directly move to a glassy state if the resource recovery rate is slow enough, at any robot density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108002
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 12 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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