Activated Escape of a Self-Propelled Particle from a Metastable State

E. Woillez, Y. Zhao, Y. Kafri, V. Lecomte, J. Tailleur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the noise-driven escape of active Brownian particles (ABPs) and run-and-tumble particles (RTPs) from confining potentials. In the small noise limit, we provide an exact expression for the escape rate in terms of a variational problem in any dimension. For RTPs in one dimension, we obtain an explicit solution, including the first subleading correction. In two dimensions we solve the escape from a quadratic well for both RTPs and ABPs. In contrast to the equilibrium problem we find that the escape rate depends explicitly on the full shape of the potential barrier, and not only on its height. This leads to a host of unusual behaviors. For example, when a particle is trapped between two barriers it may preferentially escape over the higher one. Moreover, as the self-propulsion speed is varied, the escape route may discontinuously switch from one barrier to the other, leading to a dynamical phase transition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number258001
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number25
StatePublished - 28 Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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