The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 227, Issue 17, pp 2413–2424 | Cite as

Active colloidal particles in emulsion droplets: a model system for the cytoplasm

  • Viva R. Horowitz
  • Zachary C. Chambers
  • İrep Gözen
  • Thomas G. Dimiduk
  • Vinothan N. ManoharanEmail author
Regular Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Physics Inspired by Living Matter: Dynamics, Topology and Functionality


In living cells, molecular motors create activity that enhances the diffusion of particles throughout the cytoplasm, and not just ones attached to the motors. We demonstrate initial steps toward creating artificial cells that mimic this phenomenon. Our system consists of active, Pt-coated Janus particles and passive tracers confined to emulsion droplets. We track the motion of both the active particles and passive tracers in a hydrogen peroxide solution, which serves as the fuel to drive the motion. We first show that correcting for bulk translational and rotational motion of the droplets induced by bubble formation is necessary to accurately track the particles. After drift correction, we find that the active particles show enhanced diffusion in the interior of the droplets and are not captured by the droplet interface. At the particle and hydrogen peroxide concentrations we use, we observe little coupling between the active and passive particles. We discuss the possible reasons for lack of coupling and describe ways to improve the system to more effectively mimic cytoplasmic activity.


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Copyright information

© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsHamilton CollegeClintonUSA
  3. 3.Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Faculty of Medicine, University of OsloOsloNorway
  5. 5.Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of OsloOsloNorway
  6. 6.Department of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringChalmers University of TechnologyGöteborgSweden

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