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Physics of synthetic small-scale propulsion in complex fluids for biomedical applications

Final Report Summary - SWIMSYNTHETIC (Physics of synthetic small-scale propulsion in complex fluids for biomedical applications)

Synthetic self-propelled swimmers at the micrometer and nanometer scale could help revolutionise the future of medicine by allowing the design of simpler targeted therapeutic and diagnostic devices. I combined two of the thematic areas from the 7th framework program (health and nanosciences) and conduct theoretical studies to discover the physical principles behind artificially-propelled small-scale swimmers in complex fluids. Specifically, I quantified the dynamics, stability and control of artificial swimmers driven by magnetic or acoustic fields, modelled theoretically and experimentally self-propulsion in complex fluids as relevant to the biomedical world, and characterised mathematically the role of stochastic forces on the dynamics of artificial swimmers. The research approach is fundamental and consists of theoretical and computational studies purposely positioned upstream of experiments. The ultimate goal of this project was to advance our knowledge in the fundamental physical principles of small-scale locomotion while deriving the guiding principles necessary to design of a wide class of artificial swimmers for use in biomedicine. The support of the CIG has allowed me to return to Europe after a productive 12-year academic career in the United States and to obtain a permanent position; has provided financial support for my research activities in an outstanding and supporting scientific environment; has enabled the creation of a research group of seven PhD students and two postdoctoral scholars; has enabled the communication of my past expertise and the knowledge acquired during the project to my immediate environment; has allowed me to establish new international collaborations and to build on my track record in teaching by educating European students at the undergraduate and postgraduate level; and has encouraged further research in the development of novel nanotechnologies relevant to the future of healthcare in Europe by supporting a fundamental theoretical and computational approach.