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Statistical Mechanics of Active Matter

Final Report Summary - SMART (Statistical Mechanics of Active Matter)

Active matter is made up of active "atoms", typically micron-sized units of biological or synthetic origin that are capable of using some form of energy, which is stored internally or in the local environment, and convert it into mechanical work. The resulting dynamics gives rise to a rich variety of unusual behaviors that often have no counterpart in equilibrium, non-living matter. One of the most striking example of that is active matter's capability of self organising around a passive floating object and propel it according to the geometric details of its shape. Bacteria are a beautiful example of active matter: they can swim very fast, but also self-replicate, sense the environment, and look for food, all packaged in a body measuring a few microns. We have developed frontier research tools that use light to obtain volumetric reconstructions of swimming bacteria, to grab and reorient individual cells or to shape their environment with complex 3D printed microstructures. These tools allow to interrogate active systems in ways that were not possible before. Using these tools we have demonstrated that bacteria can autonomously deliver tiny micro-cargoes onto target sites or propel rotating micro-motors with a steady and controllable torque.