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Microswimmers – From Single Particle Motion to Collective Behaviour

Summer School of the DFG Priority Programme 1726 – Microswimmers

21 – 25 September 2015 in Jülich, Germany


The school provides about 25 hours of lectures including discussions. All lectures will be given in English. Participants will receive a book of lecture notes, which contains all the material presented during the school. The lectures are grouped together in five sections that aim to cover the fields most relevant to microswimmers and self-propelled particles. These fields cover experimental and simulation methods, biological swimmers, artificial swimmers, the collective behaviour of self-propelled objects, as well as related topics concerning active, non-equilibrium systems. Each section will include both introductory material and later, building on this core knowledge, more advanced material.


Unravelling the complex processes of autonomous swimming at the microscale level requires input from experiment, theory, and simulation. This block contains lectures in which important methods from all these fields are presented. This will cover low Reynolds number hydrodynamics, mesoscale simulation techniques, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, models to describe collective motion, and various experimental methods.

Biological Microswimmers

Evolution has generated a large diversity of biological microswimmers, each using propulsion mechanisms and navigation strategies tailored to their natural environment and function. Understanding how and why biological swimmers work the way they do enables scientists to manipulate their behaviour and so use these swimmers directly in technical applications. Moreover, propulsion and synchronization mechanisms from natural swimmers can be transferred and even optimized in the design of artificial swimmers. Lectures will give an overview of the behaviour of different classes of natural swimmers: sperm cells, bacteria, algae such as chlamydomonas, and trypanosomes.

Artificial Microswimmers

Self-propulsion requires the conversion from potential to kinetic energy. The first technical realizations of self-propelled objects have been developed both for various driving potentials as well as different conversion strategies. Lectures in this section will provide insights into the fundamentals of driving potentials, for example, gradients in concentration, temperature, or chemical potential, and conversion mechanisms. Subjects such as diffusiophoresis, thermophoresis, and nanomachines will be covered.

Collective Behaviour

Microswimmers cannot accomplish their tasks without their ability to spontaneously organize coordinated and collective motion when present in large groups. Lectures will cover the collective behaviour of various model and biological systems. In particular, the collective behaviour of spheres and rods, surface effects, and synchronization will be discussed. Also, the behaviour of microswimmers in external gravitational or flow fields will be studied.


The governing physics of microswimmers is tightly connected to various other fields. Lectures will cover topics whose understanding is beneficial for a deeper insight into the behaviour of microswimmers. Topics will be motility assays, shaken granular media, and actuated hydrogels.