Giovanni Volpe awarded the Faculty of Science’s 2023 Research Award

(Image adapted from here.)
Giovanni Volpe received the Faculty of Science’s 2023 Research Award for using methods from physics to look into complex and biological systems.

The Research Award of the Faculty of Science of the University of Gothenburg recognizes development of a research specialization that significantly contributes to novelty in the faculty’s research. The award recipient receives a diploma and a research grant of SEK 250,000. This year, the award ceremony will be held on 19 October.

A short interview with Giovanni Volpe regarding this achievement can be found at the link: Giovanni Volpe awarded the Faculty of Science’s 2023 Research Award.

Bubble-propelled micromotors for ammonia generation published in Nanoscale

Bubble-propelled micromotors tracked by deep learning. (Image by H. Bachimanchi.)
Bubble-propelled micromotors for ammonia generation
Rebeca Ferrer Campos, Harshith Bachimanchi, Giovanni Volpe, Katherine Villa
Nanoscale (2023)
doi: 10.1039/D3NR03804A

Micromotors have emerged as promising tools for environmental remediation, thanks to their ability to autonomously navigate and perform specific tasks at the microscale. In this study, we present the development of MnO2 tubular micromotors modified with laccase for enhanced oxidation of organic pollutants by providing an additional oxidative catalytic pathway for pollutant removal. These modified micromotors exhibit efficient ammonia generation through the catalytic decomposition of urea, suggesting their potential application in the field of green energy generation. Compared to bare micromotors, the MnO2 micromotors modified with laccase exhibit a 20% increase in rhodamine B degradation. Moreover, the generation of ammonia increased from 2 to 31 ppm in only 15 min, evidencing their high catalytic activity. To enable precise tracking of the micromotors and measurement of their speed, a deep-learning-based tracking system was developed. Overall, this work expands the potential applicability of bio-catalytic tubular micromotors in the energy field.

Deep-learning-powered data analysis in plankton ecology on ArXiv

Segmentation of two plankton species using deep learning (N. scintillans in blue, D. tertiolecta in green). (Image by H. Bachimanchi.)
Deep-learning-powered data analysis in plankton ecology
Harshith Bachimanchi, Matthew I. M. Pinder, Chloé Robert, Pierre De Wit, Jonathan Havenhand, Alexandra Kinnby, Daniel Midtvedt, Erik Selander, Giovanni Volpe
arXiv: 2309.08500

The implementation of deep learning algorithms has brought new perspectives to plankton ecology. Emerging as an alternative approach to established methods, deep learning offers objective schemes to investigate plankton organisms in diverse environments. We provide an overview of deep-learning-based methods including detection and classification of phyto- and zooplankton images, foraging and swimming behaviour analysis, and finally ecological modelling. Deep learning has the potential to speed up the analysis and reduce the human experimental bias, thus enabling data acquisition at relevant temporal and spatial scales with improved reproducibility. We also discuss shortcomings and show how deep learning architectures have evolved to mitigate imprecise readouts. Finally, we suggest opportunities where deep learning is particularly likely to catalyze plankton research. The examples are accompanied by detailed tutorials and code samples that allow readers to apply the methods described in this review to their own data.

Age-related differences in the functional topography of the locus coeruleus and their implications for cognitive and affective functions published on eLife

Average functional gradients of the locus coeruleus in the CamCAN 3T dataset. (Image from the publication.)
Age-related differences in the functional topography of the locus coeruleus and their implications for cognitive and affective functions
Dániel Veréb, Mite Mijalkov, Anna Canal-Garcia, Yu-Wei Chang, Emiliano Gomez-Ruiz, Blanca Zufiria Gerboles, Miia Kivipelto, Per Svenningsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Giovanni Volpe, Matthew Betts, Heidi IL Jacobs, Joana B Pereira
eLife 12, RP87188 (2023)
doi: 10.7554/eLife.87188.3

The locus coeruleus (LC) is an important noradrenergic nucleus that has recently attracted a lot of attention because of its emerging role in cognitive and psychiatric disorders. Although previous histological studies have shown that the LC has heterogeneous connections and cellular features, no studies have yet assessed its functional topography in vivo, how this heterogeneity changes over aging, and whether it is associated with cognition and mood. Here, we employ a gradient-based approach to characterize the functional heterogeneity in the organization of the LC over aging using 3T resting-state fMRI in a population-based cohort aged from 18 to 88 years of age (Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience cohort, n=618). We show that the LC exhibits a rostro-caudal functional gradient along its longitudinal axis, which was replicated in an independent dataset (Human Connectome Project [HCP] 7T dataset, n=184). Although the main rostro-caudal direction of this gradient was consistent across age groups, its spatial features varied with increasing age, emotional memory, and emotion regulation. More specifically, a loss of rostral-like connectivity, more clustered functional topography, and greater asymmetry between right and left LC gradients was associated with higher age and worse behavioral performance. Furthermore, participants with higher-than-normal Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) ratings exhibited alterations in the gradient as well, which manifested in greater asymmetry. These results provide an in vivo account of how the functional topography of the LC changes over aging, and imply that spatial features of this organization are relevant markers of LC-related behavioral measures and psychopathology.

Keynote presentation by G. Volpe at SPIE-MNM, San Diego, 23 August 2023

Active droploids. (Image taken from Nat. Commun. 12, 6005 (2021).)
Critical fluctuations and critical Casimir forces
Giovanni Volpe
Date: 23 August 2023
Time: 8:00 AM PDT

Critical Casimir forces (CCF) are a powerful tool to control the self-assembly and complex behavior of microscopic and nanoscopic colloids. While CCF were theoretically predicted in 1978, their first direct experimental evidence was provided only in 2008, using total internal reflection microscopy (TIRM). Since then, these forces have been investigated under various conditions, for example, by varying the properties of the involved surfaces or with moving boundaries. In addition, a number of studies of the phase behavior of colloidal dispersions in a critical mixture indicate critical Casimir forces as candidates for tuning the self-assembly of nanostructures and quantum dots, while analogous fluctuation-induced effects have been investigated, for example, at the percolation transition of a chemical sol, in the presence of temperature gradients, and even in granular fluids and active matter. In this presentation, I’ll give an overview of this field with a focus on recent results on the measurement of many-body forces in critical Casimir forces, the realization of micro- and nanoscopic engines powered by critical fluctuations, and the creation of light-controllable colloidal molecules and active droploids.

Soft Matter Lab members present at SPIE Optics+Photonics conference in San Diego, 20-24 August 2023

The Soft Matter Lab participates to the SPIE Optics+Photonics conference in San Diego, CA, USA, 20-24 August 2023, with the presentations listed below.

Giovanni Volpe is also co-author of the presentations:

  • Jiawei Sun (KI): (Poster) Assessment of nonlinear changes in functional brain connectivity during aging using deep learning
    21 August 2023 • 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM PDT | Conv. Ctr. Exhibit Hall A
  • Blanca Zufiria Gerbolés (KI): (Poster) Exploring age-related changes in anatomical brain connectivity using deep learning analysis in cognitively healthy individuals
    21 August 2023 • 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM PDT | Conv. Ctr. Exhibit Hall A
  • Mite Mijalkov (KI): Uncovering vulnerable connections in the aging brain using reservoir computing
    22 August 2023 • 9:15 AM – 9:30 AM PDT | Conv. Ctr. Room 6C

Perspectives on adaptive dynamical systems published in Chaos

Adaptivity across different scientific disciplines (blue) and applications (yellow) as well as its strong inter- linking and interlocking, similar to a system of gears.
(Image by the Authors of the manuscript)
Perspectives on adaptive dynamical systems
Jakub Sawicki, Rico Berner, Sarah A. M. Loos, Mehrnaz Anvari, Rolf Bader, Wolfram Barfuss, Nicola Botta, Nuria Brede, Igor Franović, Daniel J. Gauthier, Sebastian Goldt, Aida Hajizadeh, Philipp Hövel, Omer Karin, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Christoph Miehl, Jan Mölter, Simona Olmi, Eckehard Schöll, Alireza Seif, Peter A. Tass, Giovanni Volpe, Serhiy Yanchuk, Jürgen Kurths
Chaos 33, 071501 (2023)
doi: 10.1063/5.0147231
arXiv: 2303.01459

Adaptivity is a dynamical feature that is omnipresent in nature, socio-economics, and technology. For example, adaptive couplings appear in various real-world systems like the power grid, social, and neural networks, and they form the backbone of closed-loop control strategies and machine learning algorithms. In this article, we provide an interdisciplinary perspective on adaptive systems. We reflect on the notion and terminology of adaptivity in different disciplines and discuss which role adaptivity plays for various fields. We highlight common open challenges, and give perspectives on future research directions, looking to inspire interdisciplinary approaches.

Destructive effect of fluctuations on the performance of a Brownian gyrator on ArXiv

Angular velocity in the steady-state. (Excerpt from Fig. 2 of the manuscript.)
Destructive effect of fluctuations on the performance of a Brownian gyrator
Pascal Viot, Aykut Argun, Giovanni Volpe, Alberto Imparato, Lamberto Rondoni, Gleb Oshanin
arxiv: 2307.05248

The Brownian gyrator (BG) is a minimal model of a nano-engine performing a rotational motion, judging solely upon the fact that in non-equilibrium conditions its torque, angular momentum L and angular velocity W have non-zero mean values. For a time-discretized model, we calculate the previously unknown probability density functions (PDFs) of L and W. We find that when the time-step δt → 0, both PDFs converge to uniform distributions with diverging variances. For finite δt, the PDF of L has exponential tails and all moments, but its noise-to-signal ratio is generically much bigger than 1. The PDF of W exhibits heavy power-law tails and its mean W is the only existing moment. The BG is therefore not an engine in common sense: it does not exhibit regular rotations on each run and its fluctuations are not only a minor nuisance.
Our theoretical predictions are confirmed by numerical simulations and experimental data. We discuss some improvements of the model which may result in a more systematic behavior.