Observing and studying how life forms behave, i.e., their movement, adaptability, and so on, have enabled human beings to develop new technologies or optimize existing ones. One of the more noticeable phenomena in Nature is morphogenesis. Morphogenetic processes exist in different stages of biological development, from cellular division to tissue and organ formation. It is easy to observe shape development during mophogenesis due to emerging imaging techniques. However, it is hard to understand this process due to its complex organization, and the morphogenetic responses can be induced by a variety of chemicals or mechanical stresses and are subject to the stochastic fluctuation of the environment, making it even more difficult to acquire a fundamental understanding. It is natural to think of mimicking the complex biological process using simplified synthetic approaches. Endowing synthetic protocells with the ability to control their shape and motion autonomously would enable them to perform more like a biological system, but with less complexity. Creating synthetic morphogenesis would potentially further our understanding in biological morphogenetic processes. Moreover, we can borrow some of the morphogenetic functions in engineered materials to achieve a variety of applications, including artificial tissues, self-healing materials, controlled drug delivery, manipulation of soft robots, among others. In this dissertation, we used a synthetic cellular system controlled by a reaction regulated network that imitates the genetic control as a minimal model to understand the potential mechanisms of morphogenesis. Different simulation methods were used depending on the length scales of interest in each problem. We studied the following aspects of the minimal model system: (a) catalytic reaction induced local morphological control of amphiphilic diblock copolymer vesicles; (b) non-equilibrium control over the self-assembled structures of amphiphilic surfactants; and (c) diffusiophoretic/self-diffusiophoretic motion of colloidal particles in response to the concentration gradient field. The results obtained in this thesis work will provide a valuable road-map to guide future experiments.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering; Chemical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





morphogenesis, block copolymers, amphiphiles, colloids, catalytic reaction, motion control, shape control



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Engineering Commons