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CBES: Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science

Self-Replication with Dipolar Colloids

Scientific Achievement

Developed a self-replication model and validated it in the context of magnetic colloids.



Dipole replication scheme. (A) Detailed sketch of the dipole model used for self-replication. (B) A dimer template which will be replicated. (C) If no colloids are bound, the preferred configuration for low dipole concentrations in a weak field is a line. Binding sites are never close enough to form a new dimer. (D) The four-step replication cycle. In steps i-iii, a template replicates. In step iv, a strong external field is reoriented continuously to dissolve clusters.

Significance and Impact

The development of self-replicating structures, which exhibit exponential growth, has the potential to revolutionize technological and manufacturing paradigms.

Research Details

  • Exponential growth of dimers was demonstrated using a simple system of magnetic colloids with a magnetic drive and minimal environmental control.
  • Demonstrated the dependence of dimer exponential growth rates on energy cycle.
  • By controlling the solvent’s electrostatic interaction with the colloids, exponential growth with a very low (0.3%) error rate was achieved.


Self-replication With Magnetic Dipolar Colloids
Dempster, J.M., Zhang, R., Olvera de la Cruz, M.
Phys. Rev. E 92, 2015, 042305.

Work performed at Northwestern University