Self-assembly research has the potential to fulfill our ultimate technological and scientific desires that are (i) to mimic complex material architectures that we see in Nature to advance our technology (which performs adaptability and multifunctionality at multiple length scales, where the form and function are different at each length scale, and yet the entire system can work as a single entity), (ii) to understand the emergence of life and (iii) to decipher the universal rules that govern emergence of complex materials and behavior. Although there is no general theory for complex systems, this does not stop us from experimentally exploring the controlled creation of complex structures and behavior, inspired primarily by biological organisms.

We conduct interdisciplinary research at the interface between materials science, physics, chemistry, and biology. Our goal is to understand complexity around us and to make use of it by “simplifying” it through a unique far-from-equilibrium self-assembly approach that we have developed. We have shown this method in very many different experimental setups ranging from vacuum systems to liquid/colloidal solutions to liquid crystals to light-solid interactions to light itself in the form of ultrashort laser pulses. Using these setups, we have experimented with a variety of materials ranging from silicon atoms to polystyrene nanoparticles, to microorganisms, to sub-10 nm nanoparticles, to ceramics, and metal surfaces. Brief descriptions of our current research efforts are listed below:

– Fundamentals of complex systems and far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics,

– Soft condensed matter physics,

– Emergent, exotic behavior of microorganisms under strong spatiotemporal gradients at very short time scales,

– Soft robots of colloids and microorganisms,

– Adaptive, multi-scale, multi-functional, complex materials for energy and mechanical applications,

– Dissipative chemistry.