Kolloquien  |  Physik

Physikalisches Kolloquium:Growing Droplets in Cells and Gels

Dienstag, 03. Dezember 2019
15:15 – 16:45 Uhr

R 513

Der Fachbereichssprecher

Prof. Dr. Eric R. Dufresne, Department of Materials, ETH Zürich

In order to function effectively, living cells must compartmentalize myriad chemical reactions.  In the classic view, distinct functional volumes are separated by thin oily-barriers called membranes.  Recently, the spontaneous sorting of cellular components into membraneless liquid-like domains has been appreciated as an alternate route to compartmentalization.  
I will review the essential physical concepts thought to underly these biological phenomena, and outline some fundamental questions in soft matter physics that they inspire.  In particular, I will focus on the coupling of phase separation to elastic stresses in polymer networks.   Using a series of experiments spanning living cells and synthetic materials, I will demonstrate that bulk mechanical stresses dramatically impact every stage in the life of a droplet, from nucleation and growth to ripening and dissolution.
Not only does this work address fundamental questions in soft condensed matter physics, but it also has exciting implications for cell physiology and the self-assembly of synthetic materials.