Mechanics of Smart and Bio-Hybrid Gels: Experiments, Theory, Numerical Simulation

August 31, 2020 — September 4, 2020


  • Mattia Bacca (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
  • Alessandro Lucantonio (The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy)

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The proposed course aims at creating a bridge between mechanics, chemistry, physics and biology to educate new scientists in the new and fast growing scientific framework of active soft matter. Many health treatments involving drug delivery and tissue transplant technology rely on a deep understanding of the physiological conditions of the living tissue involved. To achieve this, one needs to account for the coupling between the mechanical behavior of the tissue and its biochemical activity at multiple length scales, from intracellular mechanisms to tissue behavior at the organ level. In this framework, most of the scientific problems require cross-disciplinary expertise to be tackled, hence the emerging need for a new generation of scientists capable of combining fundamental concepts from different disciplines.
The course is aimed at researchers and graduate students in the fields of applied mathematics, mechanical and chemical engineering, physics, biology and biophysics.
Dr. Zhigang Suo will introduce the concept of hydrogel. Polymeric gels constitute a reliable physical model platform for most of the soft biological tissue constituting the human body hence this represents the foundation of this course. He will provide basic insight on the main mechanical properties of these materials such as adhesive strength, fracture toughness, fatigue resistance and viscoelasticity.
Dr. Alessandro Lucantonio will discuss the analytical and computational tools available today to describe the mechanical behavior of gels with particular focus on their poroelastic behavior, which couples elasticity of the polymer network and species diffusion.
Dr. Mattia Bacca will discuss the thermodynamics of active deformation for materials depicted as a microstructural evolution. The phenomenon emerges from a biochemical process, the activity of molecular motors powered by ATP hydrolysis, which alter the equilibrium state of the material, resulting in (active) macroscopic deformation.
Dr. Robert McMeeking will discuss the mechanics and thermodynamics of actin polymerization occurring within the cytoskeleton and the mechanics of cell adhesion. This will highlight the active and anisotropic characteristics of the material constituting living cells.
Dr. Antonio De Simone will provide an introduction of fundamental concepts on crawling and deformation driven locomotion of living systems. This will link the motility of a cell with its biochemical activity at the molecular level (actin- myosin, microtubule-dynein).
Dr. Nancy Forde lectures will provide insight into experimental techniques for characterization soft matter and measure molecular-scale phenomena. She will then provide theoretical and practical insight on micro rheology, single-molecule mechanics and other techniques to create synthetic molecular motors.
Finally, Dr. Anne Bernheim will provide insight into the theory and the experimental techniques utilized to recreate other cell-level mechanisms with in-vitro system and will conclude the course.


See also