Catalyst-coated, hard particles can spontaneously generate fluid flows, which in turn propel the particles
through the fluid. If the catalyst-coated object were a deformable sheet, the self-generated flows could affect not only the sheet’s motion, but also its shape. By developing models that capture the interrelated chemical,
hydrodynamic, and mechanical interactions, the Balazs Group has uncovered novel behavior emerging from the previously-unstudied coupling between active, soft sheets and the surrounding fluid. The chemically-generated flows “sculpt” the sheet into various forms that yield different functionalities, which can be tailored by modifying the sheet’s geometry, patterning the sheet’s surface with different catalysts, and employing cascades of chemical reactions. These studies reveal how to achieve both spatial and temporal control over the position and shape of active sheets, and thus utilize the layers to autonomously and controllably trap soft objects, perform logic operations, and execute multi-stage processes in fluid-filled microchambers.
Anna C. Balazs is the Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and the Robert von der Luft Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her BA in Physics from Bryn Mawr College and her PhD in Materials Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After postdoctoral work in the Polymer Science Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research involves developing theoretical and computational models to capture the behavior of polymeric materials, nanocomposites, and multi-component fluids. Balazs is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Materials Research Society. She was a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College of Oxford University in 2000-2001 and 2007-2008. She has served on a number of editorial boards, including: Macromolecules, Langmuir, Accounts of Chemical Research, and Soft Matter. She was Chair of the American Physical Society Division of Polymer Physics in 1999-2000. She received a Special Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation. In 2003, she received the Maurice Huggins Memorial Award of the Gordon Research Conference for outstanding contributions to Polymer Science. Recently, she received the American Physical Society Polymer Physics Prize (2016), Royal Society of Chemistry S F Boys - A Rahman Award (2015), American Chemical Society Langmuir Lecture Award (2014), and the Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines (2013).