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Reconfigurable assemblies of active, auto-chemotactic gels

Presented by: 
A Balazs University of Pittsburgh
Thursday 27th June 2013 - 14:45 to 15:30
Center for Mathematical Sciences
Using computational modeling, we show that self-oscillating Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gels can both emit and sense a chemical signal and thus, drive neighboring gel pieces to spontaneously self-aggregate, so that the system exhibits auto-chemotaxis. To date, this is the closest system to the ultimate self-recombining material, which can be divided into separated parts and the parts move autonomously to assemble into a structure resembling the original, uncut sample. We also show that the gels’ coordinated motion can be controlled by light, allowing us to achieve selective self-aggregation and control over the shape of the gel aggregates. By exposing the BZ gels to specific patterns of light and dark, we design a BZ gel “train” that leads the movement of its “cargo”. Our findings pave the way for creating reconfigurable materials from self-propelled elements, which autonomously communicate with neighboring units and thereby actively participate in cons tructing the final structure. In essence, the BZ gels resemble pieces of a construction toy that can be reused to build multiple structures and thus, provide a new route for creating dynamically reconfigurable materials.
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University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons