Motile behavior of droplets as primordial micromotors
by Nathalie Katsonis, Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Monday, 27 November 2023
12 PM (coffee and cookies served at 11:45 AM)
ICMAB - Sala d'Actes Carles Miravitlles.
The early Earth was covered in water. For life to emerge, simple molecules must have concentrated in primitive compartments, commonly referred to as protocells. It is commonly accepted that protocells self-assembled from simple lipids. However, where these lipids came from, and how they self-assembled spontaneously into primitive compartments, remains a blind spot in our understanding of chemical evolution.
Building on geological evidence that an oil slick of hydrocarbons covered the primordial ocean, I propose that the irradiation of the primeval oil slick by the sun produced simple lipids and compartments, with overarching consequences on the emerging chemical complexity of system Earth. In this presentation, I will focus on presenting our recent progress in researching how water droplets would have formed in the oil slick, and how they would have evolved motile behavior in such a system.
We hope that this work will make an original contribution to prebiotic chemistry, with the results also delivering new insights into the degradation and management of oil slicks that pollute the environment.
Nathalie Katsonis (PhD 2004, Paris) heads the research unit Active Molecular Systems (www.katsonis.eu). Her groundbreaking work in elucidating the fundamental physical and chemical mechanisms that underpin functional movement, from the nanoscale (the molecule) to the macroscale (the material), has earned her international recognition.
Her research on how artificial molecular machines can be incorporated into soft matter to perform useful functions has set the groundwork for designing unconventional functionalities in soft and adaptable materials. Her achievements in the field of plant-inspired soft robotics have inspired scientists to create soft, human-friendly artificial robots that incorporate molecular machines in their design. Her recent work focuses on the mechanochemistry of artificial molecular machines.
In parallel, Katsonis has made key discoveries regarding the autonomous movement of microscopic droplets in water, recently reporting that chemotactic swimming by droplets can accelerate chemical reactions. This interplay between chemistry and motile behavior delineates a potential role for droplets in prebiotic chemical evolution, where droplets would have encapsulated molecular building blocks, templated the formation of vesicles, and promoted the emergence of macromolecules.
You can visit her website and follow her on Twitter.
Hosted by David Amabilino, ICMAB-CSIC