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Motile Active Matter: Nanomachines, Microswimmers, and Swarms

Winter School

February 25 - March 1, 2019 in Jülich, Germany


The school provides about 25 hours of lectures. The lectures are grouped into four sections, covering aspects most relevant to active matter, their agents, and collective behavior. In particular, lectures will address synthetic nano- and micromachines, biological nano- and microswimmers, the cell dynamics and locomotion, as well as their collective swarming behavior. Experimental and simulation methods will be part of all lectures. Every section and / or lecture includes introductory aspects, which provide the basic knowledge for the understanding of more advanced, cutting-edge research subjects.

Biological Nano- and Microswimmers

Evolution has provided a large diversity of biological swimmers on the microscale, with propulsion mechanisms and navigation strategies tailored to their natural environment and function, ranging from soil to open seas. Microswimmers prototypically apply cilia
or flagella for propulsion, which beat or rotate. Understanding of the underlying principles and communication strategies, e.g., chemotaxis and phototaxis, allows for their targeted manipulation and control in medicine, ecology, and multiple technical applications. Lectures will present an overview of propulsion principles and the migration behavior of different classes of natural swimmers, such as sperm cells, bacteria, and algae.

Synthetic Nano- and Micromachines

Various strategies for the design of autonomous synthetic
nano- and micromachines have been proposed. This includes phoresis – inhomogeneous catalysis of chemical reactions, thermal gradients –, planktonic body deformations, and biology-inspired concepts. Such machines provide the basis for multifunctional and highly responsive (artificial) materials, which exhibit emergent behavior and the ability to perform specific tasks in response to signals from each other and the environment. The development of novel techniques facilitates control of the locomotion of individual nano- and micromachines as well as their interactions, and the design of intelligent active materials. The various propulsion and control concepts will be addressed.


Active agents are able to spontaneously self-organize when present
in large amount, resulting in an emerging coordinated and collective motion. Examples range from the cytoskeleton of cells, swarming bacteria and plankton, to flocks of birds and schools of fish. The mechanisms determining a swarm include the shape of the agents, sensing, fluctuations, and environmentally mediated interactions. Examples of appearing structures, the collective phenomena on various length scales, universal characteristics, and synchronized motion will be discussed.

Cell Dynamics and Locomotion

Fundamental biological processes, such as morphogenesis and tissue repair, require collective cell motions, where groups of cells exhibit collective behavior that emerges from motility and interactions between them. Diverse inter- and intracellular processes are involved in migration, ranging from cytoskeleton-generated forces to deform the cell body to intercellular and substrate adhesion. This gives rise to specific phenomena, for particular cell types, such as fingering-like instabilities and spreading, or glass-like arrest as the cellular adhesions mature. The diverse aspects of cell dynamics will be presented and explained.

Additional Information


Page Picture – Swarming of spheroidal microswimmers (Courtesy: K Qi, R. G. Winkler, G. Gompper; inspired by Andy Warhol)



M. Kleinen
G. Vliegenthart
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH,
Institute of Complex Systems (ICS)
Phone: +49 2461 / 61-3142/-6131
Email: spp-microswimmers@fz-juelich.de

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