Force Reconstruction via Maximum-likelihood-estimator (MLE) Analysis (FORMA) preprint on ArXiv

High-Performance Reconstruction of Microscopic Force Fields from Brownian Trajectories

High-Performance Reconstruction of Microscopic Force Fields from Brownian Trajectories
Laura Pérez García, Jaime Donlucas Pérez, Giorgio Volpe, Alejandro V. Arzola & Giovanni Volpe
arXiv: 1808.05468

The accurate measurement of microscopic force fields is crucial in many branches of science and technology, from biophotonics and mechanobiology to microscopy and optomechanics. These forces are often probed by analysing their influence on the motion of Brownian particles. Here, we introduce a powerful algorithm for microscopic Force Reconstruction via Maximum-likelihood-estimator (MLE) Analysis (FORMA) to retrieve the force field acting on a Brownian particle from the analysis of its displacements. FORMA yields accurate simultaneous estimations of both the conservative and non-conservative components of the force field with important advantages over established techniques, being parameter-free, requiring ten-fold less data and executing orders-of- magnitude faster. We first demonstrate FORMA performance using optical tweezers. We then show how, outperforming any other available technique, FORMA can identify and characterise stable and unstable equilibrium points in generic extended force fields. Thanks to its high performance, this new algorithm can accelerate the development of microscopic and nanoscopic force transducers capable of operating with high reliability, speed, accuracy and precision for applications in physics, biology and engineering.

Active Matter Influence on Coffee Rings preprint in arXiv

Active Matter Alters the Growth Dynamics of Coffee Rings

Active Matter Alters the Growth Dynamics of Coffee Rings
Tuğba Andaç, Pascal Weigmann, Sabareesh K. P. Velu, Erçağ Pinçe, Agnese Callegari, Giorgio Volpe & Giovanni Volpe
arXiv: 1803.02619

We experimentally demonstrate the light-controlled assembly of active colloidal molecules from a suspension of two species of passive microspheres.When light is shone on the sample, the active molecules form and acquire motility through non-reciprocal interactions between their passive components. As their size grows, they feature a complex array of behaviors, becoming propellers, spinners and rotators. Their shape and functionality can be tuned by applying periodic illumination. We also provide a theoretical model allowing to predict the complete table of emerging active molecules and their properties in quantitative agreement with the experiments.

Dynamic Deposition of Particles in Evaporating Droplets published in J. Phys. Chem. Lett.

Dynamic control of particle deposition in evaporating droplets by an external point source vapor

Dynamic control of particle deposition in evaporating droplets by an external point source vapor
Robert Malinowski, Giovanni Volpe, Ivan Parkin & Giorgio Volpe
The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 9(3), 659—664 (2018)
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.7b02831
arXiv: 1801.08218

The deposition of particles on a surface by an evaporating sessile droplet is important for phenomena as diverse as printing, thin-film deposition, and self-assembly. The shape of the final deposit depends on the flows within the droplet during evaporation. These flows are typically determined at the onset of the process by the intrinsic physical, chemical, and geometrical properties of the droplet and its environment. Here, we demonstrate deterministic emergence and real-time control of Marangoni flows within the evaporating droplet by an external point source of vapor. By varying the source location, we can modulate these flows in space and time to pattern colloids on surfaces in a controllable manner.

Optimal Search Strategy in Complex Topography published in PNAS

The topography of the environment alters the optimal search strategy for active particles

The topography of the environment alters the optimal search strategy for active particles
Giorgio Volpe & Giovanni Volpe
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 114(43), 11350—11355 (2017)
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1711371114
arXiv: 1706.07785

In environments with scarce resources, adopting the right search strategy can make the difference between succeeding and failing, even between life and death. At different scales, this applies to molecular encounters in the cell cytoplasm, to animals looking for food or mates in natural landscapes, to rescuers during search-and- rescue operations in disaster zones, and to genetic computer algo- rithms exploring parameter spaces. When looking for sparse targets in a homogeneous environment, a combination of ballistic and diffusive steps is considered optimal; in particular, more ballistic Lévy flights with exponent α ≤ 1 are generally believed to optimize the search process. However, most search spaces present complex to- pographies. What is the best search strategy in these more realistic scenarios? Here we show that the topography of the environment significantly alters the optimal search strategy towards less ballistic and more Brownian strategies. We consider an active particle performing a blind cruise search for non-regenerating sparse targets in a two-dimensional space with steps drawn from a Lévy distribution with exponent varying from α = 1 to α = 2 (Brownian). We demon- strate that, when boundaries, barriers and obstacles are present, the optimal search strategy depends on the topography of the environ- ment with α assuming intermediate values in the whole range under consideration. We interpret these findings using simple scaling arguments and discuss their robustness to varying searcher’s size. Our results are relevant for search problems at different length scales, from animal and human foraging, to microswimmers’ taxis, to bio- chemical rates of reaction.

Review on Active Matter published in Rev. Mod. Phys.

Active Brownian particles in complex and crowded environments

Active Brownian particles in complex and crowded environments (Invited review)
Clemens Bechinger, Roberto Di Leonardo, Hartmut Löwen, Charles Reichhardt, Giorgio Volpe & Giovanni Volpe
Reviews of Modern Physics 88(4), 045006 (2016)
DOI: 10.1103/RevModPhys.88.045006
arXiv: 1602.00081

Differently from passive Brownian particles, active particles, also known as self-propelled Brownian particles or microswimmers and nanoswimmers, are capable of taking up energy from their environment and converting it into directed motion. Because of this constant flow of energy, their behavior can be explained and understood only within the framework of nonequilibrium physics. In the biological realm, many cells perform directed motion, for example, as a way to browse for nutrients or to avoid toxins. Inspired by these motile microorganisms, researchers have been developing artificial particles that feature similar swimming behaviors based on different mechanisms. These man-made micromachines and nanomachines hold a great potential as autonomous agents for health care, sustainability, and security applications. With a focus on the basic physical features of the interactions of self-propelled Brownian particles with a crowded and complex environment, this comprehensive review will provide a guided tour through its basic principles, the development of artificial self-propelling microparticles and nanoparticles, and their application to the study of nonequilibrium phenomena, as well as the open challenges that the field is currently facing.

Microscopic Crowd Control published in Nature Commun.

Disorder-mediated crowd control in an active matter system

Disorder-mediated crowd control in an active matter system
Erçağ Pinçe, Sabareesh K. P. Velu, Agnese Callegari, Parviz Elahi, Sylvain Gigan, Giovanni Volpe & Giorgio Volpe
Nature Communications 7, 10907 (2016)
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10907

Living active matter systems such as bacterial colonies, schools of fish and human crowds, display a wealth of emerging collective and dynamic behaviours as a result of far-from- equilibrium interactions. The dynamics of these systems are better understood and controlled considering their interaction with the environment, which for realistic systems is often highly heterogeneous and disordered. Here, we demonstrate that the presence of spatial disorder can alter the long-term dynamics in a colloidal active matter system, making it switch between gathering and dispersal of individuals. At equilibrium, colloidal particles always gather at the bottom of any attractive potential; however, under non-equilibrium driving forces in a bacterial bath, the colloids disperse if disorder is added to the potential. The depth of the local roughness in the environment regulates the transition between gathering and dispersal of individuals in the active matter system, thus inspiring novel routes for controlling emerging behaviours far from equilibrium.


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Guide to Building Optical Tweezers published in JOSA B

A step-by-step guide to the realisation of advanced optical tweezers

A step-by-step guide to the realisation of advanced optical tweezers
Giuseppe Pesce, Giorgio Volpe, Onofrio M. Maragò, Philip H. Jones, Sylvain Gigan, Antonio Sasso & Giovanni Volpe
Journal of the Optical Society of America B 32(5), B84—B98 (2015)
DOI: 10.1364/JOSAB.32.000B84
arXiv: 1501.07894

Since the pioneering work of Arthur Ashkin, optical tweezers (OT) have become an indispensable tool for contactless manipulation of micro- and nanoparticles. Nowadays OT are employed in a myriad of applications demonstrating their importance. While the basic principle of OT is the use of a strongly focused laser beam to trap and manipulate particles, more complex experimental setups are required to perform novel and challenging experiments. With this article, we provide a detailed step-by-step guide for the construction of advanced optical manipulation systems. First, we explain how to build a single-beam OT on a homemade micro- scope and how to calibrate it. Improving on this design, we realize a holographic OT, which can manipulate independently multiple particles and generate more sophisticated wavefronts such as Laguerre–Gaussian beams. Finally, we explain how to implement a speckle OT, which permits one to employ random speckle light fields for deterministic optical manipulation.

Longterm Influence of Fluid Inertia on Brownian Motion published in Phys. Rev. E

Longterm influence of fluid inertia on the diffusion of a Brownian particle

Longterm influence of fluid inertia on the diffusion of a Brownian particle
Giuseppe Pesce, Giorgio Volpe, Giovanni Volpe & Antonio Sasso
Physical Review E 90(4), 042309 (2014)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.90.042309
arXiv: 1402.6913

We experimentally measure the effects of fluid inertia on the diffusion of a Brownian particle at very long time scales. In previous experiments, the use of standard optical tweezers introduced a cutoff in the free diffusion of the particle, which limited the measurement of these effects to times comparable with the relaxation time of the fluid inertia, i.e., a few milliseconds. Here, by using blinking optical tweezers, we detect these inertial effects on time scales several orders longer up to a few seconds. The measured mean square displacement of a freely diffusing Brownian particle in a liquid shows a deviation from the Einstein-Smoluchowsky theory that diverges with time. These results are consistent with a generalized theory that takes into account not only the particle inertia but also the inertia of the surrounding fluid.

Speckle Optical Tweezers published in Opt. Express

Speckle optical tweezers: Micromanipulation with random light fields

Speckle optical tweezers: Micromanipulation with random light fields
Giorgio Volpe, Lisa Kurz, Agnese Callegari, Giovanni Volpe & Sylvain Gigan
Optics Express 22(15), 18159—18167 (2014)
DOI: 10.1364/OE.22.018159
arXiv: 1403.0364

Current optical manipulation techniques rely on carefully engineered setups and samples. Although similar conditions are routinely met in research laboratories, it is still a challenge to manipulate microparticles when the environment is not well controlled and known a priori, since optical imperfections and scattering limit the applicability of this technique to real-life situations, such as in biomedical or microfluidic applications. Nonetheless, scattering of coherent light by disordered structures gives rise to speckles, random diffraction patterns with well- defined statistical properties. Here, we experimentally demonstrate how speckle fields can become a versatile tool to efficiently perform fundamental optical manipulation tasks such as trapping, guiding and sorting. We anticipate that the simplicity of these “speckle optical tweezers” will greatly broaden the perspectives of optical manipulation for real-life applications.

Simulation of Active Brownian Motion published in Am. J. Phys.

Simulation of the active Brownian motion of a microswimmer

Simulation of the active Brownian motion of a microswimmer
Giorgio Volpe, Sylvain Gigan & Giovanni Volpe
American Journal of Physics 82(7), 659—664 (2014)
DOI: 10.1119/1.4870398

Unlike passive Brownian particles, active Brownian particles, also known as microswimmers, propel themselves with directed motion and thus drive themselves out of equilibrium. Understanding their motion can provide insight into out-of-equilibrium phenomena associated with biological examples such as bacteria, as well as with artificial microswimmers. We discuss how to mathematically model their motion using a set of stochastic differential equations and how to numerically simulate it using the corresponding set of finite difference equations both in homogenous and complex environments. In particular, we show how active Brownian particles do not follow the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution—a clear signature of their out-of-equilibrium nature—and how, unlike passive Brownian particles, microswimmers can be funneled, trapped, and sorted.