Light-controlled Assembly of Active Colloidal Molecules
Falko Schmidt, Benno Liebchen, Hartmut Löwen & Giovanni Volpe
Journal of Chemical Physics 150(9), 094905 (2019)
Thanks to a constant energy input, active matter can self-assemble into phases with complex architectures and functionalities such as living clusters that dynamically form, reshape, and break-up, which are forbidden in equilibrium materials by the entropy maximization (or free energy minimization) principle. The challenge to control this active self-assembly has evoked widespread efforts typically hinging on engineering of the properties of individual motile constituents. Here, we provide a different route, where activity occurs as an emergent phenomenon only when individual building blocks bind together in a way that we control by laser light. Using experiments and simulations of two species of immotile microspheres, we exemplify this route by creating active molecules featuring a complex array of behaviors, becoming migrators, spinners, and rotators. The possibility to control the dynamics of active self-assembly via light-controllable nonreciprocal interactions will inspire new approaches to understand living matter and to design active materials.