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Harvesting out-of-equilibrium forces for molecular control

Project description

Harnessing forces of nature to transport molecules at small scales

Mixing particles is an everyday experience, like stirring your morning coffee with a spoon. At the micro to nanoscale, such tools do not exist, making mixing and transport a challenge. A number of biological transport processes, from bacteria motion in the intestine to selective transport in ion channels in the brain, therefore have to rely on alternative strategies. Electrochemical gradients are only one of the many driving forces harnessed by biological or artificial systems. The EU-funded MolecularControl project is developing theoretical tools to better describe such out-of-equilibrium thermodynamics, opening the door to better control molecular transport and assembly in fields including health and energy.


Numerous biological processes harvest out-of-equilibrium forces for transport, sensing, signaling and more. For example, pumping of ions is performed within fluctuating pores that are believed to facilitate transport. The nature of these forces is extremely diverse, from electrical driving to thermodynamic or chemical driving. The ability to describe nonequilibrium states is critical to understand a broad range of biological processes but remains extremely challenging as appropriate thermodynamic concepts have only recently been introduced and are still scarce . The MolecularControl project aims at developing theoretical tools that can be widely applied to out-of-equilibrium soft matter problems. I will use these tools to address more specificially systems relevant to health issues or sustainable energy.

In this context, I will develop two theoretical frameworks in the USA. The first will address the dynamics of ions in confinement (electrochemical driving) and will be used to describe the blockage mechanism of a specific neuronal ion channel called NMDA. The second will address the fast growth of molecular crystals via screw dislocations (kinetic and thermodynamic driving) and will be applied to the growth of L-cystine crystals, involved in the formation of kidney stones, a major health issue.

Back to Europe with this added value of mastering numerous tools to control molecular assembly and ionic transport in nonequilibrium systems, I will use them to study (a) ion current fluctuations in confinement and between electrodes for applications in individual ionic sensing, advanced capacitive electrode design and blue energy generation and (b) molecular assembly in a more realistic kidney representation, in particular under flow.

This project represents a unique opportunity to grow as an independent researcher with a strong transatlantic network and to become a future leader in an emerging scientific field of great fundamental and societal relevance.


Net EU contribution
€ 275 619,84
Rue michel ange 3
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (1)