Between the 25th and the 29th of July 2022 David participated in the MoLE conference in Donostia-San Sebastián. The unexpected demise of Professor Juan José Sáenz, on March 22, 2020, has left his beloved family and friends in shock all over the globe. Following his spirit, MoLE conference 2022 was devoted to honouring his memory the way he would have liked: Appreciated colleagues and friends presenting and discussing their most recent advances, in both electronics and photonics. During this conference David presented a poster on “Elongated active particles in speckle fields“, where he had the chance to discuss the topic with a broad community of interested scientists.
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.
Between the 26th of June and the 1st of July 2022 Liam participated in the Active and Intelligent Living Matter conference on Sicily, where he presented a poster summarizing several of his research projects about active continuum theories and their application to biological systems.
Sandrine Heijnen attended the 5th Meeting of the UCL Cross-Disciplinary Network on Soft Materials on the 20th of June 2022. She presented a poster titled “Emergent Collective Behaviours for Active Particles in Optical Landscapes” showing the recent development in her project regarding the behaviour of superparamagnetic particles in a light illuminated field. The Meeting presented a lot of interesting ideas by introducing both art and architecture, giving rise to a lot of interesting discussions.
During the conference NanoPlasm 2022, David was awarded the best Poster Prize, sponsored by Nanophotonics Journal – De Gruyter. The poster session was full of interesting discussions and ideas with curious researchers. After the official poster sesion we organized a small presentation taking advantage of the beautiful location. Is the future of poster presentations in locations like this?
Between the 13th and the 17th of June David participated in NanoPlasm 2022, which took place in Cetraro, Calabria, Italy. The conference was focused on the rapidly growing fields of Plasmonics and Nano-Photonics, which are opening new frontiers in nanoscience and advanced technologies via novel cross-disciplinary research activities. During this conference David presented 2 posters (titles: “Machine learning enhanced calculations of optical forces in the geometrical optics approximation” and “Elongated active particles in speckle fields“) and an elevator pitch talk, introducing his work on machine learning for optical forces calculations and his recent work on elongated active particles in speckle fields.
Between the 2nd and the 4th of June, David was invited to the YM Leadership meeting in Paris to present the outreach activities carried out by the student chapter in Messina. After three years of virtual engagement the meeting brought together almost 50 YM delegates from 20 different countries as well as many interested students and young researchers from outside of the YM network, making it a great success.
Beyond the programme of the LM the co-location with the EPS Forum, allowed the participants to learn about industrial opportunities and to attend lectures from world-class researchers, including 3 Nobel Laureates. Scientific outreach, cultural exchange, and peaceful international collaboration are more important than ever. Bringing young scientists together and equipping them with tools and skills is a great way of fostering these aspects.
Between the 23rd and the 27th of May 2022 Liam participated in the CECAM workshop on Computational methods and tools for complex suspensions to present some of his work. In his talk titled “Modelling biological matter as active nematic fluids” he highlighted how numerical simulations of active fluids can be used to study the self-organization of three-dimensional tissues in a variety of biological systems, where a continuous influx of energy on a single-cell level drives striking collective behaviour at the tissue scale.
During the ActiveMatter meeting in Lisbon, Laura Natali and David Bronte Ciriza proposed a two hours activity on the fundamentals of effective communication. The activity was structured in an interactive way, and it began with a open discussion about the importance of communication, especially in science.
Then, the ESRs briefly described their research in a popular science style, so addressed to a broader public. The first hour concluded with a presentation about rules to keep in mind while communicating both in oral and written form.
Afterwards, a few examples among the written texts were selected and discussed with all the participants. The aim was to exchange feedback and suggestions on how to make the communication more effective. The feedback was the inspiration for everyone to review their communication example, and the final versions are being uploaded on the official twitter account @ActiveMatterITN.
Collective response of microrobotic swarms to external threats
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]