Anti-biofilm Material to Fight Bacterial Formation on Surfaces

Biofilms cause health problems for millions of people worldwide every year, primarily because of infections during surgery or consumption of contaminated packaged foods. To prevent these problems, some scientists are developing surface coatings that will prevent biofilm formation in the first place. In this week’s paper, we will learn about a new technique for creating a microscopic “shield” against the formation and growth of biofilms.

Fast Flow in Tiny Tubes

The “continuum breakdown” is an intriguing aspect of fluid mechanics and physics in general, but is typically very hard to study experimentally. Recently, a group of researchers based in France overcame these difficulties and managed to study water flowing through carbon nanotubes.

3 Easy Steps to (almost) Curing Type 2 Diabetes

Direct insulin injection is considered a traditional treatment for the type II diabetes. Aside from its painstaking process, this treatment imperfectly regulates the dynamics of insulin release. In this post you will read about designing an artificial cell that can manage to release insulin on-demand when needed.

The matter of maternal mucus: permeability and preterm birth

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word mucus? For most people, it’s probably the last time they had a cold. Mucus is not usually something we think about unless there’s a problem. However, it is always there, working behind the scenes to make sure that our bodies function smoothly. Mucus lines the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems, covering a surface area of about 400 square meters- about 200 times more area than is covered by skin. In addition to providing lubrication and keeping the underlying tissue hydrated, mucus also plays a key role the human immune system. It serves as a selectively permeable membrane that protects against unwanted pathogens while also helping to support and control the body’s microbiome.

SOFI CDT: a Ph.D. opportunity in soft matter in the UK


SOFI CDT (more formally known as the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces) is a doctoral training program based across three UK universities: Durham, Leeds and Edinburgh. SOFI is a broad and interdisciplinary program, recruiting up to 16 students per year from a variety of academic backgrounds including physics, chemistry, food science, maths and engineering. Academically, SOFI has a strong focus on soft matter science but offers its students a broader learning experience by incorporating training activities based on developing skills in business, enterprise, media and communications throughout the duration of the Ph.D. Each student also has the opportunity to spend time studying abroad.

How the leopard got its spots

Patterns are ubiquitous in nature, but how do they form? By considering how proteins can interact with each other, Alan Turing gives an explanation of how patterns can be formed without any genetic control, simply by following known laws of physics.

Maxwell-Boltzmann in the Mosh Pit

You must have observed a flock of birds or a school of fish form wonderful patterns. The entire group behaves like one big organism. Have you ever wondered if humans behave similarly when many of them get together? Are there similarities between violent mobs or cheering crowds and a herd of sheep or a flock of birds? Today’s paper studies human behaviour in one such form of gathering - A mosh pit!

Scientists dream of micro-submarines

In the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew shrink to the size of a microbe in order to travel into the body of an escaped Soviet scientist and remove a blood clot in his brain. The film gave viewers a glimpse into a possible future where doctors could treat patients by going directly to the source of the problem instead of being limited by the inaccessibility of most parts of the human body. This dream of a tiny submarine that can be piloted through the human body to deliver medical care remains, even 50 years later, in the realm of science fiction. However, Miskin and coworkers at Cornell University have brought us one step closer to making this a reality with their recent development of autonomous microscale machines.

Coil and Recoil: New screw-like bacteria swimming

No one likes being stuck. Whether you are in a car stranded in mud or stuck in a dead-end job, continuing normal behaviour is unlikely to help. Whereas we can see approaching hazards and dead-ends and try to avoid them, bacteria must blindly swim through passageways and channels that are of a similar size to themselves, often resulting in the cell becoming trapped. So, how does a bacterium change its behaviour to free itself?

Self-assembling silk lasers

Rings, spheres, and optical resonators self-assembled out of silk

When I first learned about the coffee ring effect I thought it was super cool, but it seemed like an open-and-shut case. Why do rings form where some liquids, like spilled coffee, are left to dry? Roughness on the table causes the liquid to spread imperfectly across the surface, pinning the edges of the droplet in place with a fixed diameter. Because the diameter of the droplet can’t change during evaporation, new liquid must flow from the droplet’s center to the edges. This flow also pushes dissolved coffee particles to the edges of the droplet, where they are left behind to form a ring as the water evaporates away (Figure 1). More details can be found in our previous post, here. It’s a complicated phenomenon, but after being described in 1997 it doesn’t seem like anything new would be going on here. Right? Well, as it usually happens in science, classic concepts have a way of popping back up in unexpected ways. Last year Itır Bakış Doğru and her colleagues in Prof. Nizamoğlu’s group at Koç University, Turkey published a study using the often troublesome coffee ring effect to their advantage: making self-assembling silk lasers.