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Science and Mathematics

BioInspired Institute Seminar: Eric Dufresne, Department of Materials, ETH Zürich

April 14, 2021 at 10:00am11:00am EDT

Virtual (See event details)

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Growing Droplets in Cells and Gels

Eric Dufresne, Department of Materials, ETH Zürich

To function effectively, living cells 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 underlie these biological phenomena, and outline some fundamental questions in soft matter physics that they inspire. Then, 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.

These physical phenomena suggest new mechanisms that cells could exploit to regulate phase separation, and open new routes to the assembly of functional materials.


Register in advance for this meeting by clicking “Register now” below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. 

This event was published on March 30, 2021.

Event Details