Alexander Mietke


Odd dynamics of living chiral crystals

Fluids and Materials Seminar

21st April 2022, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Fry Building, Hybrid meeting: G07 or Zoom

The emergent dynamics exhibited by collections of living organisms often shows signatures of symmetries that are broken at the single-organism level. At the same time, organism development itself encompasses a well-coordinated sequence of symmetry breaking events that successively transform a single, nearly isotropic cell into an animal with well-defined body axis and various anatomical asymmetries. Combining these key aspects of collective phenomena and embryonic development, we describe here the spontaneous formation of hydrodynamically stabilized active crystals made of hundreds of starfish embryos that gather during early development near fluid surfaces. We describe a minimal hydrodynamic theory that is fully parameterized by experimental measurements of microscopic interactions among embryos. Using this theory, we can quantitatively describe the stability, formation and rotation of crystals and rationalize the emergence of non-reciprocal mechanical properties that carry signatures of an odd elastic material. Our work thereby quantitatively connects developmental symmetry breaking events on the single-embryo level with remarkable macroscopic material properties of a novel living chiral crystal system.

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