Figure 1

Active Molecular Systems and Materials

Our research program is often inspired by complex chemical phenomena observed in biological systems, where molecular machines, motors and switches maintain out of equilibrium states by ingenious coupling with their anisotropic environment. Ultimately, they promote the emergence of function at higher levels of organization. The work implies a special focus on motion and dynamic control over chirality across increasing length scales.

Shape-generating chemical systems

This multidisciplinary activity of the group is concerned with the discovery of new concepts for shape- generating molecular materials. In one of our seminal works we have reported how the interplay between asymmetry by gradients and anisotropy of e.g. liquid crystals, combined with the action of molecular switches, can encode the conversion of light into helical movement. Ultimately, we hope that simple shape-generating systems will help untangle some of the physical and chemical underpinnings of shape evolution in biology, contribute to the developing new paradigms for soft robotics, and to the design of responsive and adaptive materials.

Motile behavior of minimal life forms

Movement has been seen as a hallmark of life from the earliest times. In the second part of our research program we are working toward incorporating complex motile behavior into synthetic mimics of minimal life- forms, by coupling molecular chemistry to physical processes. A theme of this program is to make droplets, vesicles or other microcompartments that move autonomously by using metabolic energy.

Selected Publications

F. Lancia, T. Yamamoto, A. Ryabchun, T. Yamaguchi, M. Sano, N. Katsonis
Reorientation behaviour in the helical motility of light-responsive spiral droplets.
Nat. Commun. 10, 5238 (2019)

F. Lancia, A. Ryabchun, N. Katsonis.
Life-like motion driven by artificial molecular machines. 
Nat. Rev. Chem. 3, 536-551 (2019).

F. Lancia, A. Ryabchun, A-D. Nguindjel, S. Kwangmettatam, N. Katsonis.
Mechanical adaptability of artificial muscles from nanoscale molecular action. 
Nat. Commun. 10, 4819 (2019).

T. Orlova, F. Lancia, C. Loussert, S. Iamsaard, N. Katsonis, E. Brasselet.
Revolving supramolecular chiral structures powered by light in nanomotor-doped liquid crystals
Nat. Nanotechnol. 13, 304-308 (2018).

S. Iamsaard, S. J. Asshoff, B. Matt, T. Kudernac, J. J. L. M. Cornelissen, S. P. Fletcher, N. Katsonis.
Conversion of light into macroscopic helical motion. 
Nat. Chem. 6, 229-235 (2014).