Deep learning probability flows and entropy production rates in active matter

Nicholas M. Boffi, Eric Vanden-Eijnden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Active matter systems, from self-propelled colloids to motile bacteria, are characterized by the conversion of free energy into useful work at the microscopic scale. They involve physics beyond the reach of equilibrium statistical mechanics, and a persistent challenge has been to understand the nature of their nonequilibrium states. The entropy production rate and the probability current provide quantitative ways to do so by measuring the breakdown of time-reversal symmetry. Yet, their efficient computation has remained elusive, as they depend on the system’s unknown and high-dimensional probability density. Here, building upon recent advances in generative modeling, we develop a deep learning framework to estimate the score of this density. We show that the score, together with the microscopic equations of motion, gives access to the entropy production rate, the probability current, and their decomposition into local contributions from individual particles. To represent the score, we introduce a spatially local transformer network architecture that learns high-order interactions between particles while respecting their underlying permutation symmetry. We demonstrate the broad utility and scalability of the method by applying it to several high-dimensional systems of active particles undergoing motility-induced phase separation (MIPS). We show that a single network trained on a system of 4,096 particles at one packing fraction can generalize to other regions of the phase diagram, including to systems with as many as 32,768 particles. We use this observation to quantify the spatial structure of the departure from equilibrium in MIPS as a function of the number of particles and the packing fraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2318106121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • active matter
  • machine learning
  • scientific computing
  • stochastic thermodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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