Research performed in the Balazs group was featured on the front cover in the May issue of Soft Matter

Recently, University of Pittsburgh Investigator Anna Balazs was recognized by Soft Matter and had research highlighted on the journal's cover page. The publication, titled Self-assembly of Microcapsules Regulated via the Repressilator Signaling Network, is summarized below.

One of the intriguing challenges in designing active matter is devising systems that not only self-organize, but also exhibit self-regulation. Inspired by biological regulatory networks, we design a collection of self-organizing, self-regulating microcapsules that move in response to self-generated chemical signals. Three microcapsules act as localized sources of distinct chemicals that diffuse through surrounding fluid. Production rates are modulated by the "repressilator" regulatory network motif: each chemical species represses the production of the next in a cycle. Depending on the maximum production rates and capsule separation distances, we show that immobile capsules either exhibit steady or oscillatory chemical production. We then consider movement of the microcapsules over the substrate, induced by gradients in surface energy due to adsorbed chemicals. We numerically simulate this advection-diffusion-reaction system with solid-fluid interactions by combining lattice Boltzmann, immersed boundary and finite difference methods, and thereby, construct systems where the three capsules spontaneously assemble to form a close-packed triad. Chemical oscillations are shown to be critical to this assembly. By adjusting parameters, the triad can either remain stationary or translate as a cohesive group. Stationary triads can also be made to "turn off", producing chemicals at minimal rates after assembly. These findings provide design rules for creating synthetic material systems that encompass biomimetic feedback loops, which enable dynamic collective behavior.

To view the full publication, please go to:

Samuel Stupp Briefs Illinois Congressional Delegation

Washington D.C., April 15, 2015: Samuel Stupp briefed the Illinois Congressional delegation on research conducted at the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES).  He explained the importance of the "research community" approach to discovering and developing bio-inspired systems that are relevant to energy challenges. He also described support for CBES through the DOE Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) program as an investment in fundamental research to discover things we currently do not know. Illinois has four EFRCs and these centers have impact on the state by training many young scientists for both academic and entrepreneurial careers, by developing research relationships between Argonne and universities in the state, and by possibly attracting innovative high-tech business activities to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Kevin Chiou, Materials Science and Engineering, Receives NSF Fellowship

Hierarchical Approach to Artificial Muscle

This project seeks to achieve mechanical actuation using self-assembling molecules.The research focuses on materials with biomimetic functions related to inter-conversion between chemical and mechanical energy forms, under Thrust 1 of the CBES program.

CBES Mentors: Monica Olvera de la Cruz and Samuel Stupp
Sponsor: The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Project period: September 2015 – September 2018

Jack Edelbrock, Materials Science and Engineering, Receives NSF Fellowship

Artificial Organelles – Self-Regulating Reaction Networks

This project seeks to emulate the function of biological organelles by creating reaction compartments that isolate chemical reactions while allowing inter-compartmental communication and feedback. The research focuses on emulating the fundamental properties of cells, extracellular matrices, and tissues in the context of energy use and transduction, under Thrust 1 of the CBES program.

CBES Mentors: Monica Olvera de la Cruz and Samuel Stupp 
Sponsor: The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Project period: August 2014 - August 2017