Open PhD position

About the job

Can we create animate synthetic materials that are simultaneously adaptive, active and autonomous? This dream has over the past years become tangible, thanks to the advent of robotic matter. Robotic matter combines the collective effects of condensed matter with the power of robotics and exhibits animate functionalities, such as pattern formation, controlled modification of the environment and locomotion. It opens exciting prospects for our fundamental understanding of far-from-equilibrium phenomena and for nascent applications such as non-invasive surgery or extra-terrestrial exploration—which demand materials to locomote without external control in complex and unpredictable environments. Despite these major developments in robotic matter, its properties remain hard to predict.

In this PhD project, you will surpass this limitation by laying the foundations of a new class of odd robotic matter. Odd active matter is a special type of active matter in which basic principles like Newton’s 3rd law and the symmetry of elastic tensors are broken by design and where far-from-equilibrium phenomena like unidirectional wave amplification emerge. Revisiting classical mechanics in the absence of such principles allows us to predict the large-scale behaviour of odd robotic matter in principle. Yet only its linear, defect-free response without influences from the environment has been studied and observed so far.

What are you going to do?

In this PhD project, you will combine desktop-scale experiments, numerics and theory to generalise odd active matter in the presence of (1) nonlinearities and (2) topological defects. You will strategically use these to achieve (3) autonomous and adaptable locomotion in complex and unpredictable environments.

Odd active matter will provide new guidelines for the design of animate functionalities. It will also bring conceptual tools for continuum mechanics, nonlinear wave physics and topological physics in novel fundamental settings—where basic symmetries are broken—which are relevant at vastly different scales, from open quantum and photonic systems, to metamaterials, active matter and living organisms.

What do you have to offer?

Do you have a creative, curious and driven nature? Are you eager to combine numerical simulations, theory and experiments? You relish working in a team?

You are currently studying towards a Master’s degree in physics, mathematics, engineering, computational science or a related field?


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