CBES Investigators

Erik Luijten

Research Overview

Chemotactic bacteria swim autonomously through complex media to regulate their environment and find new energy sources. Physically, these functional behaviors are enabled by feedback bet­ween local sensing and autonomous motion across stimulus landscapes that vary in space and time. Depending on the relationship between sensing and motion, a variety of different functional behaviors can be achieved, such as positive or negative taxis. We envision the development of synthetic soft materials encoded with functions inspired by living cells – in particular, the integration of autonomous sensing, computation, actuation, locomotion, and communication at the microscale. Realizing these dynamic functions requires new capabilities in the design and synthesis of material systems that can direct flows of energy and information outside of equilibrium. The Luijten group will use continuum theories of hydrodynamics, electrostatics, magnetostatics, and species transport to predict the dynamics of synthetic microrobot movement. Theory and simulation will also be applied to explore the design of microrobots that signal and communicate with each other to perform concerted functions. Active colloidal particles interact with one another at long range through the hydrodynamic, electrostatic, and chemical disturbances created by their activity. In particular, Luijten has developed novel computational methodologies that allow for modeling the dynamic polarization effects that direct the collective dynamics and organization of particles driven by non-linear electrokinetic effects.