CBES Investigators

Kyle Bishop

Allan Brooks

PhD Candidate
Chemical Engineering

Yang Gu

PhD Candidate
Chemical Engineering

Syeda Sabrina

PhD Candidate
Chemical Engineering

Research Overview

Our research focuses on the structure and dynamics of particulate matter (nanocrystals, droplets, etc.) dispersed in liquids with sizes ranging from few nanometers to tens of microns. This scale remains a challenging frontier in material science – often beyond the limits of both top-down fabrication strategies and bottom-up chemical approaches. Materials at these scales offer unique mechanical, electronic, and magnetic properties required by emerging applications in energy capture and storage, photonics, and electronics. It is the challenge of nanoengineering to organize these materials into functional systems best exemplified by the structural and dynamical complexity of living cells. Such complexity cannot be achieved at equilibrium but instead requires flows of matter and energy to enable smart materials capable of actuating, sensing, adapting, self-repairing, and even self-replicating. We use external stimuli (e.g., electric fields, chemical reactions, shear forces) to drive colloidal systems away from equilibrium in order (i) to understand dynamic (dissipative) self-assembly and (ii) to engineer the spontaneous organization of functional materials. Building on our expertise in colloidal interactions, self-assembly, and non-equilibrium phenomena, we integrate experiment with theory and simulation to unlock the mysteries of matter far from equilibrium and realize the full potential of nanotechnology.

Binary mixtures of actively rotating particles give rise to emergent collective behaviors such as this self-propelled vortex doublet.

As part of the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES) our contribution focuses on the development of active colloidal systems with which to investigate collective, non-equilibrium dynamics.  Building on recent advances in the study of self-propelled colloids, we are exploring the dynamics of particles subject to active rotational motion and how it depends on particle shape and connectivity, hydrodynamic and colloidal interactions, as well as spatiotemporal variations in energy input.  This experimental effort is supported by theory and simulations performed both within our group and by our CBES collaborators. Ultimately, we aim (1) to develop efficient mechanisms of energy conversion to enable distributed actuation in colloidal materials; (2) to understand and ultimately design the collective dynamics of many interacting, colloidal motors; (3) to harness these dynamic behaviors within artificial systems to perform useful functions.