Physics of active soft matter
General Physics Colloquium by Hartmut Löwen, Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf, Germany
Abstract: Ordinary materials are “passive” in the sense that their constituents are typically made by inert particles which are subjected to thermal fluctuations, internal interactions and external fields but do not move on their own. Living systems, like schools of fish, swarms of birds, pedestrians and swimming microbes are called “active matter” since they are composed of self-propelled constituents. Active matter is intrinsically in nonequilibrium and exhibits a plethora of novel phenomena as revealed by a recent combined effort
of statistical theory, computer simulation and real-space experiments. The colloquium talk provides an introduction into the physics of active matter focussing on biological and artificial microswimmers as key examples of active soft matter . A number of single-particle and collective phenomena in active matter will be adressed ranging from the circle swimming to inertial delay effects.
 For a review, see: C. Bechinger, R. di Leonardo, H. Löwen, C. Reichhardt, G. Volpe, G. Volpe, Active particles in complex and crowded environments, Reviews of Modern Physics 88, 045006 (2016).
Light-controlled Assembly of Active Colloidal Molecules
Falko Schmidt, Benno Liebchen, Hartmut Löwen & Giovanni Volpe
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 ac- tive 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 illumina- tion. 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.
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.
Reply to comment on “Circular motion of asymmetric self-propelling particles”
Felix Kümmel, Borge ten Hagen, Raphael Wittkowski, Daisuke Takagi, Ivo Buttinoni, Ralf Eichhorn, Giovanni Volpe, Hartmut Löwen & Clemens Bechinger
Physical Review Letters 113(2), 029802 (2014)
Micron-sized self-propelled (active) particles can be considered as model systems for characterizing more complex biological organisms like swimming bacteria or motile cells. We produce asymmetric microswimmers by soft lithography and study their circular motion on a substrate and near channel boundaries. Our experimental observations are in full agreement with a theory of Brownian dynamics for asymmetric self-propelled particles, which couples their translational and orientational motion.