Ordering of binary colloidal crystals by random potentials
André S. Nunes, Sabareesh K. P. Velu, Iryna Kasianiuk, Denys Kasyanyuk, Agnese Callegari, Giorgio Volpe, Margarida M. Telo da Gama, Giovanni Volpe & Nuno A. M. Araújo
Structural defects are ubiquitous in condensed matter, and not always a nuisance. For example, they underlie phenomena such as Anderson localization and hyperuniformity, and they are now being exploited to engineer novel materials. Here, we show experimentally that the density of structural defects in a 2D binary colloidal crystal can be engineered with a random potential. We generate the random potential using an optical speckle pattern, whose induced forces act strongly on one species of particles (strong particles) and weakly on the other (weak particles). Thus, the strong particles are more attracted to the randomly distributed local minima of the optical potential, leaving a trail of defects in the crystalline structure of the colloidal crystal. While, as expected, the crystalline ordering initially decreases with increasing fraction of strong particles, the crystalline order is surprisingly recovered for sufficiently large fractions. We confirm our experimental results with particle-based simulations, which permit us to elucidate how this non-monotonic behavior results from the competition between the particle-potential and particle-particle interactions.
Active Matter Alters the Growth Dynamics of Coffee Rings
(Back cover article)
Tuğba Andaç, Pascal Weigmann, Sabareesh K. P. Velu, Erçağ Pinçe, Agnese Callegari, Giorgio Volpe, Giovanni Volpe & Agnese Callegari
Soft Matter 15(7), 1488—1496 (2019)
How particles are deposited at the edge of evaporating droplets, i.e. the coffee ring effect, plays a crucial role in phenomena as diverse as thin-film deposition, self-assembly, and biofilm formation. Recently, microorganisms have been shown to passively exploit and alter these deposition dynamics to increase their survival chances under harshening conditions. Here, we show that, as the droplet evaporation rate slows down, bacterial mobility starts playing a major role in determining the growth dynamics of the edge of drying droplets. Such motility-induced dynamics can influence several biophysical phenomena, from the formation of biofilms to the spreading of pathogens in humid environments and on surfaces subject to periodic drying. Analogous dynamics in other active matter systems can be exploited for technological applications in printing, coating, and self-assembly, where the standard coffee-ring effect is often a nuisance.
High-Performance Reconstruction of Microscopic Force Fields from Brownian Trajectories Laura Pérez García, Jaime Donlucas Pérez, Giorgio Volpe, Alejandro V. Arzola & Giovanni Volpe
Nature Communications 9, 5166 (2018)
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 analysis (FORMA) to retrieve the force field acting on a Brownian particle from the analysis of its displacements. FORMA estimates accurately 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 demonstrate FORMA performance using optical tweezers, showing how, outperforming other available techniques, it can identify and characterise stable and unstable equilibrium points in generic force fields. Thanks to its high performance, FORMA can accelerate the development of microscopic and nanoscopic force transducers for physics, biology and engineering.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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 the diffusion of a Brownian particle
Giuseppe Pesce, Giorgio Volpe, Giovanni Volpe & Antonio Sasso
Physical Review E 90(4), 042309 (2014)
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: Micromanipulation with random light fields
Giorgio Volpe, Lisa Kurz, Agnese Callegari, Giovanni Volpe & Sylvain Gigan
Optics Express 22(15), 18159—18167 (2014)
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.