The article Active Droploids has been featured in a press release of the University of Gothenburg.
The study, published in Nature Communications, examines a special system of colloidal particles and demonstrates a new kind of active matter, which interacts with and modifies its environment. In the long run, the result of the study can be used for drug delivery inside the human body or to perform sensing of environmental pollutants and their clean-up.
Jens Grauer, Falko Schmidt, Jesús Pineda, Benjamin Midtvedt, Hartmut Löwen, Giovanni Volpe & Benno Liebchen
Nat. Commun. 12, 6005 (2021)
Active matter comprises self-driven units, such as bacteria and synthetic microswimmers, that can spontaneously form complex patterns and assemble into functional microdevices. These processes are possible thanks to the out-of-equilibrium nature of active-matter systems, fueled by a one-way free-energy flow from the environment into the system. Here, we take the next step in the evolution of active matter by realizing a two-way coupling between active particles and their environment, where active particles act back on the environment giving rise to the formation of superstructures. In experiments and simulations we observe that, under light-illumination, colloidal particles and their near-critical environment create mutually-coupled co-evolving structures. These structures unify in the form of active superstructures featuring a droplet shape and a colloidal engine inducing self-propulsion. We call them active droploids—a portmanteau of droplet and colloids. Our results provide a pathway to create active superstructures through environmental feedback.
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.