I plan to explore, by means of different molecular and mesoscale computer simulation techniques, the possibility of using active colloids as building blocks for self-assembled material. Active colloids are a novel class of soft matter maintained out of equilibrium, even in steady state, by internal energy sources. Examples are colloids producing small molecules at their surface ("chuckers") that move due to an osmotic pressure imbalance caused by e. g. non-equilibrium density fluctuations of the small molecules, or colloids that self-propel in the surrounding medium. I will first study the physics of non-equilibrium chuckers, which has received little attention in the literature so far. In order to do that, I will consider a suspension of active and passive colloids to probe whether they phase separate or self-assemble into complex aggregates. I will then study the physics of motile colloids, focusing on Janus particles (synthetic colloids with different chemical properties at different locations), and I will make them motile to both direct and speed-up their self-assembly. At a later stage I will also simulate a suspension of these motile particles and non-adsorbing polymers to study the way self-assembly happens in an active colloids-polymers mixture. My project will have implications both in fundamental physics, shedding light onto non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, and in technology, allowing the design of new materials.
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