Artificial and Intelligent Living Matter

Erice - WE-Heraeus Workshop

27 Jun - 30 Jun 2022


Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture, Erice, Sicily, Italy

Scientific organizers:

Prof. Amin Doostmohammadi, U Kopenhagen, Denmark • Dr. Marco Mazza, Dr. Tyler Shendruk, U Loughborough, UK • Prof. Dr. Holger Stark, TU Berlin

Animal herds, flocks of birds, colonies of ants and bacteria all display fascinating examples of coordinated, collective motion. The condensed matter and biophysics community has made considerable progress in the understanding of physical principles governing these living systems. This fundamental understanding has even led to the design of various synthetic active materials that are capable of self-propulsion and self-assembly. Hydrodynamic interactions, steric forces, topological constraints, or basic chemical or visual sensing mechanisms have been recognized as guiding cues for a myriad of active systems and their collective effects. In the future, the biomedical and technological world could depend on manufactured materials that behave more like such actively intelligent biomaterials.

Yet all investigations so far have scarcely addressed a main feature of living matter: the responsive and adaptive functionality of active systems. While shoals of fish or epithelial tissues both actively and intelligently respond to environmental stimuli, manufactured materials can only respond passively. How can material science design biological or synthetic active systems with intelligent responsiveness built in? This new frontier of living matter research has the potential to usher in important advances in the biomedical sciences, for example, by controlling the spread of biofilms; in technological applications with robotic swarms that accomplish specific tasks with minimal centralized control; or in smart drug delivery actuated by liposomes.

In this Erice Workshop, world-renowned experts in the field will discuss their most recent advances in both experimental and theoretical investigations devoted to elucidate complex nonequilibrium mechanisms in the context of biological and artificial active matter. Topics span areas from cytoskeletal and microtubule dynamics, active colloids, neural activity, corrugated shapes and new developments in tissue mechanics to cellular migration, biofilms, and applications of artificial intelligence. As a fundamentally cross-disciplinary endeavour, our workshop will bridge these diverse fields, whilst dealing head-on with the discipline-specific details that our expert invited speakers will contribute.