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Living systems operate at a thermodynamic state that is out of equilibrium. This endows living organisms with the fascinating ability to autonomously grow, adapt, learn, replicate, signal, respond and heal. This dynamic, dissipative state is very different from the thermodynamic equilibrium regime relevant to most processes in today’s materials chemistry. Within this research effort we take up the challenge to create and study functional systems that operate in the thermodynamic regime of life. In this program, chemists, physicists and biologists join forces to develop new out-of-equilibrium systems and materials that have life-like, adaptive properties. With this consortium we aim to make a significant step forwards in tackling one of the major outstanding challenges in the field of synthetic biology and materials chemistry.


The programme

The aim of this research programme is to create supramolecular systems and materials that feature the three fundamental principles of life and that are able to autonomously operate out of equilibrium. The programme is organized around three projects (P1, P2 and P3) that focus on self-assembly, self-sustainability and self-replication, respectively, and one project that is aimed at making the step to out-of-equilibrium materials and devices (P4), see the schematics.


The Consortium

This unique program brings together expertise from chemistry, biochemistry, physics, biophysics and materials science, combining experiment and theory, represented by a complementary team of principle investigators, PhD students and postdocs. The researchers are from four different institutes:

Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials (Zernike)

Stratingh Institute for Chemistry (Stratingh)

Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB)

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)

Principal Investigators, PhD-students and postdocs

News and events

Latest Publications

Perspective: a stirring role for metabolism in cells J. Losa, S. Leupold, D. Alonso‐Martinez, P. Vainikka, S. Thallmair, K.M. Tych, S.J. Marrink, M. Heineman (2022) Molecular Systems Biology 18 (4), e10822.

Coarse-graining made easy with the MArtini Database Server C. Hilpert, L. Beranger, P.C.T. Souza, P.A. Vainikka, V. Nieto, S.J. Marrink, L. Monticelli, G. Launay(2022) bioRxiv

Martini 3 Coarse-Grained Force Field for Carbohydrates F. Grünewald, M.H. Punt, E.E. Jefferys, P.A. Vainikka, V. Virtanen, M. König, S.J. Marrink, T.A. Meyer, W. Pezeshkian, A.J. Gormley, M. Karonen, M.S.P. Sansom, P.C.T. Souza (2022)JCTC, accepted

Martini 3 Coarse-Grained Model for Type III Deep Eutectic Solvents: Thermodynamic, Structural, and Extraction Properties P. Vainikka, S. Thallmair, P.C.T. Souza, S.J. Marrink (2021) ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 9 (51), 17338–17350

Light-Driven Ecological-Evolutionary Dynamics in a Synthetic Replicator System K. Liu, A. W. P. Blokhuis, C. van Ewijk, A. Kiani, J. Wu, W. H. Roos, S. Otto (2022) ChemRxiv, doi: 10.26434/chemrxiv-2022-f2lsd. Revised version submitted to Nature Chemistry.

Unidirectional rotating molecular motors dynamicallyinteract with adsorbed proteins to direct the fateof mesenchymal stem cells Q. Zhou, J. Chen, Y. Luan, P.A. Vainikka, S. Thallmair, S. J. Marrink, B.L. Feringa, P. van Rijn (2020) Sci. Adv., 6 : eaay2756.

Out-of-Equilibrium Self-Replication Allows Selection for Dynamic Kinetic Stability in a System of Competing Replicators B.Liu, J. Wu, M. Geerts, O. Markovitch, C. G. Pappas, K. Liu, S. Otto (2022) Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.,61, e202117605. doi: 10.1002/anie.202117605 ACIE “Very Important Paper”.

Minimal Pathway for the Regeneration of Redox Cofactors M. Partipilo, E.J. Ewins, J.Frallicciardi, T. Robinson, B. Poolman, D.J. Slotboom (2021)*ACS Au 1, 12, 2280–2293 doi: doi.org/10.1021/jacsau.1c00406

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