A one-dimensional three-state run-and-tumble model with a ‘cell cycle’ published in EPJE

Graphical abstract of the publication. (Image from the article.)
A one-dimensional three-state run-and-tumble model with a ‘cell cycle’
Davide Breoni, Fabian Schwarzendahl, Ralf Blossey, Hartmut Löwen
The European Physics Journal E 45, 83 (2022)
arXiv: 2206.00992

We study a one-dimensional three-state run-and-tumble model motivated by the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus which displays a cell cycle between two non-proliferating mobile phases and a proliferating sedentary phase. Our model implements kinetic transitions between the two mobile and one sedentary states described in terms of their number densities, where mobility is allowed with different running speeds in forward and backward direction. We start by analyzing the stationary states of the system and compute the mean and squared-displacements for the distribution of all cells, as well as for the number density of settled cells. The latter displays a surprising super-ballistic scaling t^3 at early times. Including repulsive and attractive interactions between the mobile cell populations and the settled cells, we explore the stability of the system and employ numerical methods to study structure formation in the fully nonlinear system. We find traveling waves of bacteria, whose occurrence is quantified in a non-equilibrium state diagram.

Faster and more accurate geometrical-optics optical force calculation using neural networks on ArXiv

Focused rays scattered by an ellipsoidal particle (left). Optical torque along y calculated in the x-y plane using ray scattering with a grid of 400 rays (up, right) and using a trained neural network with the same number of rays (down, right). (Image by the Authors of the manuscript.)
Faster and more accurate geometrical-optics optical force calculation using neural networks
David Bronte Ciriza, Alessandro Magazzù, Agnese Callegari, Gunther Barbosa, Antonio A. R. Neves, Maria A. Iatì, Giovanni Volpe, Onofrio M. Maragò
arXiv: 2209.04032

Optical forces are often calculated by discretizing the trapping light beam into a set of rays and using geometrical optics to compute the exchange of momentum. However, the number of rays sets a trade-off between calculation speed and accuracy. Here, we show that using neural networks permits one to overcome this limitation, obtaining not only faster but also more accurate simulations. We demonstrate this using an optically trapped spherical particle for which we obtain an analytical solution to use as ground truth. Then, we take advantage of the acceleration provided by neural networks to study the dynamics of an ellipsoidal particle in a double trap, which would be computationally impossible otherwise.

Activity-driven tissue alignment in proliferating spheroids on arXiv

Bend and splay deformations in proliferating spheroids. (Image by the Authors of the manuscript.)
Activity-driven tissue alignment in proliferating spheroids
Liam Ruske & Julia Yeomans
arxiv: 2208.08258

We extend the continuum theory of active nematic fluids to study cell flows and tissue dynamics inside multicellular spheroids, spherical, self-assembled aggregates of cells that are widely used as model systems to study tumour dynamics. Cells near the surface of spheroids have better access to nutrients and therefore proliferate more rapidly than those in the resource-depleted core. Using both analytical arguments and three-dimensional simulations, we find that the proliferation gradients result in flows and in gradients of activity both of which can align the orientation axis of cells inside the aggregates. Depending on environmental conditions and the intrinsic tissue properties, we identify three distinct alignment regimes: spheroids in which all the cells align either radially or tangentially to the surface throughout the aggregate and spheroids with angular cell orientation close to the surface and radial alignment in the core. The continuum description of tissue dynamics inside spheroids not only allows us to infer dynamic cell parameters from experimentally measured cell alignment profiles, but more generally motivates novel mechanisms for controlling the alignment of cells within aggregates which has been shown to influence the mechanical properties and invasive capabilities of tumors.

Activity gradients in two- and three-dimensional active nematics

Spatial variations of active stress induce active torques, which aligns self-propelled defects along the gradient direction. Additionally there are also passive torques acting on defects induce by the elastic energy associated with deformations of the director field. The magnitude of active and passive torques acting on defects depends on defect type: While +1/2 defects (2D) and +1/2 disclination lines (3D) are dominated by active torque, twist-type disclination are subject to passive torques which aligns them in a way which minimizes the elastic energy of the system. (Illustration by Liam Ruske)
Activity gradients in two- and three-dimensional active nematics
Liam Ruske & Julia Yeomans
Soft Matter 18 5654-5661 (2022)
arxiv: 2206.06499
DOI: 10.1039/D2SM00228K


We numerically investigate how spatial variations of extensile or contractile active stress affect bulk active nematic systems in two and three dimensions. In the absence of defects, activity gradients drive flows which re-orient the nematic director field and thus act as an effective anchoring force. At high activity, defects are created and the system transitions into active turbulence, a chaotic flow state characterized by strong vorticity. We find that in two-dimensional (2D) systems active torques robustly align +1/2 defects parallel to activity gradients, with defect heads pointing towards contractile regions. In three-dimensional (3D) active nematics disclination lines preferentially lie in the plane perpendicular to activity gradients due to active torques acting on line segments. The average orientation of the defect structures in the plane perpendicular to the line tangent depends on the defect type, where wedge-like +1/2 defects align parallel to activity gradients, while twist defects are aligned anti-parallel. Understanding the response of active nematic fluids to activity gradients is an important step towards applying physical theories to biology, where spatial variations of active stress impact morphogenetic processes in developing embryos and affect flows and deformations in growing cell aggregates, such as tumours.

Collective response of microrobotic swarms to external threats published in New Journal of Physics

A swarm of microrobots, consist of active Janus colloids (middle right, not to scale), can form stationary swirl (upper) and respond to a threat as a whole (lower) when each individual follows cohesive “social rules”. Such rules are inspired by living animals and enable the swarm collective benefits, e.g. enhanced robustness of the response. (Image by C-J Chen.)
Collective response of microrobotic swarms to external threats

Chun-Jen Chen and Clemens Bechinger
New J. Phys. 24 033001 (2022)
doi: 10.1088/1367-2630/ac5374
repository: KOPS:56911

Many animal species organize within groups to achieve advantages compared to being isolated. Such advantages can be found e.g. in collective responses which are less prone to individual failures or noise and thus provide better group performance. Inspired by social animals, here we demonstrate with a swarm of microrobots made from programmable active colloidal particles (APs) that their escape from a hazardous area can originate from a cooperative group formation. As a consequence, the escape efficiency remains almost unchanged even when half of the APs are not responding to the threat. Our results not only confirm that incomplete or missing individual information in robotic swarms can be compensated by other group members but also suggest strategies to increase the responsiveness and fault-tolerance of robotic swarms when performing tasks in complex environments.

Press release at Universität Konstanz website:
How animal swarms respond to threats: With the help of microrobots, Konstanz physicists decode how swarms of animals respond effectively to danger [in English]

Brownian particles driven by spatially periodic noise published in EPJE

Brownian particles driven by spatially periodic noise
Davide Breoni, Ralf Blossey, Hartmut Löwen
The European Physical Journal E 45, 18 (2022)
arXiv: 2111.10220

We discuss the dynamics of a Brownian particle under the influence of a spatially periodic noise strength in one dimension using analytical theory and computer simulations. In the absence of a deterministic force, the Langevin equation can be integrated formally exactly. We determine the short- and long-time behaviour of the mean displacement (MD) and mean-squared displacement (MSD). In particular we find a very slow dynamics for the mean displacement, scaling as t^(-1/2) with time t. Placed under an additional external periodic force near the critical tilt value we compute the stationary current obtained from the corresponding Fokker-Planck equation and identify an essential singularity if the minimum of the noise strength is zero. Finally, in order to further elucidate the effect of the random periodic driving on the diffusion process, we introduce a phase factor in the spatial noise with respect to the external periodic force and identify the value of the phase shift for which the random force exerts its strongest effect on the long-time drift velocity and diffusion coefficient.

A platform for stop flow gradient generation to investigate chemotaxis published in Angewandte Chemie

A controlled gradient of hydrogen peroxide is generated in a microfluidic chip where a precise pressure retroactive loop prevents any external flow to interfere with the chemotaxis response of catalytic microswimmers. (Image by A. Nsamela.)
A platform for stop flow gradient generation to investigate chemotaxis
Z. Xiao, A. Nsamela, B. Garlan, and J. Simmchen
Angew. Chemie Int. Ed., Feb. 2022
chemRxiv: 10.26434/chemrxiv-2021-sxqm1
DOI: 10.1002/anie.202117768

The ability of artificial microswimmers to respond to external stimuli and the mechanistical details of their origins belong to the most disputed challenges in interdisciplinary science. Therein, the creation of chemical gradients is technically challenging, because they quickly level out due to diffusion. Inspired by pivotal stopped ow experiments in chemical kinetics, we show that microfluidics gradient generation combined with a pressure feedback loop for precisely controlling the stop of the flows, can enable us to study mechanistical details of chemotaxis of artificial Janus micromotors, based on a catalytic reaction. We find that these copper Janus particles display a chemotactic motion along the concentration gradient in both, positive and negative direction and we demonstrate the mechanical reaction of the particles to unbalanced drag forces, explaining this behaviour.

Raman tweezers for tire and road wear micro- and nanoparticles analysis published in Environmental Science: Nano

Raman Tweezers are used to detect tires and road wear particles in water. We analyze samples collected from a brake test platform, highlighting the presence of car tires and brake particles debris with sub-micrometric dimensions. (Featuring work from Dr Pietro G. Gucciardi, Prof Giovanni Volpe, and Dr Fabienne Lagarde).
Raman tweezers for tire and road wear micro- and nanoparticles analysis

R. GillibertA. MagazzùA. CallegariD. Bronte-CirizaA. FotiM. G. DonatoO. M. MaragòG. VolpeM. L. de La ChapelleF. Lagarde and P. G. Gucciardi.

Environmental Science: Nano (2022) doi: 10.1039/D1EN00553G


Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) are non-exhaust particulate matter generated by road transport means during the mechanical abrasion of tires, brakes and roads. TRWP accumulate on the roadsides and are transported into the aquatic ecosystem during stormwater runoffs. Due to their size (sub-millimetric) and rubber content (elastomers), TRWP are considered microplastics (MPs). While the amount of the MPs polluting the water ecosystem with sizes from ∼5 μm to more than 100 μm is known, the fraction of smaller particles is unknown due to the technological gap in the detection and analysis of <5 μm MPs. Here we show that Raman tweezers, a combination of optical tweezers and Raman spectroscopy, can be used to trap and chemically analyze individual TRWPs in a liquid environment, down to the sub-micrometric scale. Using tire particles mechanically grinded from aged car tires in water solutions, we show that it is possible to optically trap individual sub-micron particles, in a so-called 2D trapping configuration, and acquire their Raman spectrum in few tens of seconds. The analysis is then extended to samples collected from a brake test platform, where we highlight the presence of sub-micrometric agglomerates of rubber and brake debris, thanks to the presence of additional spectral features other than carbon. Our results show the potential of Raman tweezers in environmental pollution analysis and highlight the formation of nanosized TRWP during wear.

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.