In particular, it investigates the structure and dynamics of active (i.e. actively consuming energy from the environment) self-assembled materials, such as colloids energized by external fields or suspensions of microswimmers, for the purpose of control, prediction, and design of novel bio-inspired materials.
Our experimental activities are focused on, but not limited, to two major subjects: control of electromagnetic self-assembly and manipulation of colloidal particles, and collective behavior of active micro-swimmer suspensions. The main difference between these systems is the way energy is injected: colloids are energized by an external applied electric or magnetic field whereas micro-swimmers are self-propelled. We have chosen these seemingly different model systems for the following reasons: they are relatively simple but practically relevant, with primary physical/biological interaction mechanisms that are well characterized, and amenable to in-depth investigation using methods of non-equilibrium statistical physics.
The self-assembly in these systems is obviously governed by fundamentally different mechanisms; however, a mathematical description treating individual constituents of these complex systems as some kind of “grains” or “macro-atoms” with complex interactions helps to unify them. The program is highly interdisciplinary and correlates the dynamics of both synthetic and live agents to develop understanding of the fundamental rules governing the emergence of self-assembly and organization away from equilibrium.