Interacting particles in an activity landscape

We study interacting active Brownian particles (ABPs) with a space-dependent swim velocity via simulation and theory. We find that, although an equation of state exists, a mechanical equilibrium does not apply to ABPs in activity landscapes. The pressure imbalance originates in the flux of polar order and the gradient of swim velocity across the interface between regions of different activity. An active–passive patch system is mainly controlled by the smallest global density for which the passive patch can be close packed. Below this density a critical point does not exist and the system splits continuously into a dense passive and a dilute active phase with increasing activity. Above this density and for sufficiently high activity the active phase may start to phase separate into a gas and a liquid phase caused by the same mechanism as motility-induced phase separation of ABPs with a homogeneous swim velocity.