Droplet motility

Dynamic oil in water compartments

Simple two-phase oil-in-water systems are being developed as protocell models. Already we have seen interesting behaviors with such systems that may be useful to protocell engineering. Current studies are focused on the emergence of movement due to the link of encapsulated chemistry to the dynamics in oil droplet structure. For artificial cell applications, we have coupled the production of surfactant from the oil phase with autonomous movement of the oil droplet.

Themes explored by this research program:

  • The emergence of movement in simple chemical systems
  • Control of droplet position and chemistry using gradients and photochemistry
  • The development of new soft matter robots
  • Exploration of the link between autonomous movement, autopoiesis, perception, purposeful behavior, roots of cognition


  • Takashi Ikegami - Tokyo University
  • Tadashi Sugawara - Tokyo University
  • Taro Toyota - Chiba University
  • Mark Bedau - ProtoLife Srl, Reed College