Audrey Nsamela and Jesús Domínguez both present a poster at MNF conference in Toulouse

The Micro-Nano-Fluidics meeting took place in Toulouse (France) in September 2021. This conference was organized by a french research group and covered mainly 6 topics: Nanofluidics, Chemical Engineering, Flow-waves interactions, Flow chemistry, Diagnostics and clinics, Organ-on-Chip. Audrey and Jesús attended the 2 days conference and presented their poster. Audrey’s poster was focused on the development of a microfluidic platform for sperm sorting, while Jesús’s poster described his work on microfluidic droplet generation for bacteria encapsulation and biofilm studies. This national conference was a great opportunity for both ESRs to meet other researchers in microfluidics and discuss about applications in Active Matter.

Group picture.

The Active Matter network has a new logo !

New ActiveMatter logos: color and BW version. (Image by ActiveMatter ESRs)
With a joint effort of the ESR students, a new logo for the ActiveMatter website was designed. The idea started as a handdrawing on a piece of paper and was quickly adapted to a better version with drawing softwares. More than 15 logos were suggested and submitted to a vote. The competition was fierce but we all came to agree on one of them and we are happy to present you the new official logo of the ITN ActiveMatter !

Microfluidics for Microswimmers, a tutorial review published in Small

Illustration of the synergies between microfluidics and microswimmers described in this review: from the fabrication, to the design of environments and envisioned applications. (Image by A. Nsamela.)
Microfluidics for Microswimmers: Engineering Novel Swimmers and Constructing Swimming Lanes on the Microscale, a Tutorial Review

Priyanka Sharan, Audrey Nsamela, Sasha Cai Lesher-Pérez and Juliane Simmchen Small, 2007403 (2021) doi: 10.1002/smll.202007403

Abstract: This paper provides an updated review of recent advances in microfluidics applied to artificial and biohybrid microswimmers. Sharing the common regime of low Reynolds number, the two fields have been brought together to take advantage of the fluid characteristics at the microscale, benefitting microswimmer research multifold. First, microfluidics offer simple and relatively low‐cost devices for high‐fidelity production of microswimmers made of organic and inorganic materials in a variety of shapes and sizes. Microscale confinement and the corresponding fluid properties have demonstrated differential microswimmer behaviors in microchannels or in the presence of various types of physical or chemical stimuli. Custom environments to study these behaviors have been designed in large part with the help of microfluidics. Evaluating microswimmers in increasingly complex lab environments such as microfluidic systems can ensure more effective implementation for in‐field applications. The benefits of microfluidics for the fabrication and evaluation of microswimmers are balanced by the potential use of microswimmers for sample manipulation and processing in microfluidic systems, a large obstacle in diagnostic and other testing platforms. In this review various ways in which these two complementary technology fields will enhance microswimmer development and implementation in various fields are introduced.

Effect of viscosity on microswimmers: a comparative study published in ChemNanoMat

Illustration of the four types of microswimmers used in the viscosity study. (Image by A. Nsamela.)
Effect of viscosity on microswimmers: a comparative study

Audrey Nsamela, Priyanka Sharan, Aidee Garcia-Zintzun, Sandra Heckel, Purnesh Chattopadhyay, Linlin Wang, Martin Wittmann, Thomas Gemming, James Saenz and Juliane Simmchen ChemNanoMat (2021) doi: 10.1002/cnma.202100119

Abstract: Although many biological fluids like blood and mucus exhibit high viscosities, there are still many open questions concerning the swimming behavior of microswimmers in highly viscous media, limiting research to idealized laboratory conditions instead of application‐oriented scenarios. Here, we analyze the effect of viscosity on the swimming speed and motion pattern of four kinds of microswimmers of different sizes which move by contrasting propulsion mechanisms: two biological swimmers (bovine sperm cells and Bacillus subtilis bacteria) which move by different bending patterns of their flagellaand two artificial swimmers with catalytic propulsion mechanisms (alginate microtubes and Janus Pt@SiO 2 spherical microparticles). Experiments consider two different media (glycerol and methylcellulose) with increasing viscosity, but also the impact of surface tension, catalyst activity and diffusion coefficients are discussed and evaluated.

Rond Table Discussion on: Advanced Control of Active Matter

The last round table of this workshop regarded the topic advanced control of active matter. As organizers of round table, Audrey Nsamela, Chun-Jen Chen, Sandrine Heijnen, Harshith Bachimanchi and Alireza Khoshzaban, we welcomed and introduced our esteemed guests, namely Jérémie Palacci from University of San Diego, Clemens Bechinger from Konstanz University, Frank Cichos from Leipzig University, and Lucio Isa from ETH Zurich.

The round table started out with a clarification on advanced control of active matter. Active matter can be controlled by numerous external stimuli but implementing control on individual particles or artificial entities is what qualifies as advanced control. Currently, the control of active matter is still far from the behavior and control micro-organisms have on that scale; hence a big challenge lies there for us. Jérémie Palacci introduced an interesting research topic where they found a way to regulate the swimming process of E. Coli by light illumination. Here genetic modification was used to control the proton pump involved in the energy transportation process.

Advanced control of active matter can be applied to model systems where the control is lacking, for example biological systems. In a biological system the control over an organism is limited to the external stimuli that are applied and won’t always result in the same reaction. Therefore, using active particles showing predictable and reproducible behaviors when exposed to a stimulus works perfectly to model and to probe different parameters and thus provide a deeper understanding of the system. The fact advanced control of active matter doesn’t have an application outside of modelling systems is something we shouldn’t be ashamed of.

We concluded the meeting by asking every one of our guests what the promising research directions in the advanced control of active matter are. All of them had a different perspective. Starting with  Clemens Bechinger, who was most invested in the further exploration of the applications for model systems. Lucio Isa is mainly looking forward to explore the different materials that we can use to create active material that can subsequently be controlled. Frank Cichos mentioned the importance of looking into new ways to create active particles. So far nature was able to achieve production of active entities with limited waste whereas human production is rather inefficient. Jérémie Palacci pointed out that the current man-made active matter systems are reacting to a strong signal in a well-controlled environment, where nature faces many more factors and still works. It would be interesting to design a system that is resistant to noise.

Audrey Nsamela presents her PhD project at the ActiveMatter online meeting, 10 September 2020

The first online kick off meeting with the consortium (PIs and ESRs) took place last 10th of September. This was an opportunity for all the ESRs to introduce themselves and their project. Audrey Nsamela, ESR at Elvesys and TU Dresden, is giving a short introduction to her project which is at the interface between scientific research and industrial innovation. She is developing a microfluidic platform to study biological microswimmers (i.e. sperm cells) in various flow conditions. Watch the 5 min video to know more !

Audrey Nsamela, ESR at Elvesys and TU Dresden, presents herself and her work on microfluidics and biohybrid active matter.