3/9/20 ERC Starting Grant awarded

Karen was awarded an ERC Starting Grant:

Fluid flows through tubular networks like our bloodstream are vital building blocks of life – from simple slime molds to mammals including humans. They not only transport substances and signals but can also dynamically adapt their network architecture to new requirements. These kinds of changes are often memorized in the network for over long periods of time.

In the “FlowMem” project, Prof. Karen Alim aims to identify the physical principles behind the dynamic memory of such changes in network architectures and how they can be controlled. Knowledge of these physical mechanisms provides the basis for new approaches to topics ranging from the treatment of vascular diseases and tumor development to the development of self-optimizing porous materials in fuel cells.

TUM Press Release. EuroTech Universities Press Release. State of Bavaria Press Release. ERC Press Release.

9/4/20 We are on TV. Here is the link.

P.M. Wissen the TV science magazine visited us in the lab to learn about Physarum here goes the show. (German only)

Er wirkt wie ein Wesen von einem anderen Stern. Der Schleimpilz „Physarum Polycephalum“ beschäftigt Forscher auf der ganzen Welt. Obwohl er nur aus einer einzigen Zelle besteht, kann er Informationen verarbeiten, effiziente Wege berechnen und scheinbar intelligent handeln.

Hier ist der Link zur Mediathek:

"Blob" – wie schlau sind Einzeller?

5/3/20 Felix’s PRL published!

The slime mold Physarum polycephalum can add another achievement to its long list of remarkable properties. It is already known to find the shortest way through a maze or to follow a balanced diet, without having a central nervous system. Now we show in experiments that it can also spontaneously adjust its pumping efficiency as soon as its environmental conditions change. Thanks to the clever interaction of two superimposed pumping modes, it doesn’t even need more energy, but can still achieve a considerable increase in performance.

Read the full publication here
Living system adapts harmonics of peristaltic wave for cost-efficient optimization of pumping performance.
Felix K. Bäuerle, Stefan Karpitschka & Karen Alim,
Phys. Rev. Lett. 124,098102 (2020).

or go to the press release
(PDF), (Press English) , (Press German) .

11/27/19 Felix PRL accepted and highlighted!

The cell tissue of animals and plants is traversed by a complex vascular network, the blood vessels. The vascular network supplies cells in a tissue with nutrients. Animals can dilate individual capillaries to distribute nutrients differently in the vascular network. How do the capillaries have to be dilated to transport more nutrients to a specific area of the cell tissue? Does the change in nutrient availability for a cell strongly depend on the position of the cell in the tissue? Do vascular networks have a specific structure that allows them to precisely control nutrient supply to cells when only certain areas of cell tissue require more nutrients? To find out more read the article:

Robust increase in supply by vessel dilation in globally coupled microvasculature.
Felix Meigel, Peter Cha, Michael P. Brenner & Karen Alim,
Phys. Rev. Lett. 123, 228103 (2019). (PDF)
or browse the Physics Synopsis , Physics World Research Synopsis, or our press statement in English or German .

3/10/18 PNAS on flows driving scaling published!

Flows drive self-organization:

long-range flows in Physarum

Long-range fluid flows are crucial for the functioning of many organisms, as they provide forcing for migration and development and spread resources and signals. How flows can span vastly different scales is unclear. Here, we develop a minimal, two-component model, coupling the mechanics of a cell’s cortex to a contraction-triggering chemical. The chemical itself is spread with the fluid flows that arise due to the cortex contractions. Through theoretical and numerical analysis, we find that the oscillatory component of the flows can give rise to robust scaling of contraction waves with system size—much beyond predicted length scales. This mechanism is likely to work in a broad class of systems.

Oscillatory fluid flow drives scaling of contraction wave with system size.
Jean-Daniel Julien & Karen Alim,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 115, 10612–10617 (2018). (PDF) (Press German) (Press English)