IBPS news: Synthetic materials that communicate with each other to beat mechanically

Living organisms directly transform chemical energy stored at the molecular scale into coordinated movements at the multicellular scale. Such coordination across scales can be achieved by chemical communication.

Combining theory and experiment, Baptiste Blanc (LJP) and his collaborators demonstrate that oscillating Belousov-Zhabotinsky hydrogels exhibit collective behavior thanks to their ability to communicate chemically with each other. These gels also have the ability to beat autonomously mechanically, like an artificial heart, by converting the energy of the oscillating chemical reaction into mechanical oscillation. Collective behavior can be used to trigger their mechanical responses.

These findings are important for building biologically-inspired autonomous adaptive synthetic materials and isolating the physico-chemical mechanisms responsible for the properties of living matter.

Diffusion reaction waves propagating in a medium composed of multiple oscillating Belousov Zhabotinsky gels enable them to beat mechanically.

Blanc, B., Agyapong, J. N., Hunter, I., Galas, J.-C., Fernandez-Nieves, A., & Fraden, S. (2024). Collective chemomechanical oscillations in active hydrogels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 121(6), e2313258121. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2313258121