Life is out-of-equilibrium phenomena, that is chemical reactions in the cell are constantly fueled by reactants and products are constantly removed. Out-of-equilibrium conditions are necessary to display functions (e.g., chemotaxis, temporal regulations of cell cycle and day/night cycle) that are based on communication between chemical reactions, diffusion, and self-assembly. Yet, feeding possesses a serious challenge. Active feeding is technically difficult while passive, diffusion, feeding requires small scales. Coacervates, droplets, vesicles, or microfluidic channels create environments that supports diffusive feeding.
In our group, we study how diffusive feeding can be coupled to reaction networks by running coupled reactions in the environments that are listed above. Ultimately, we would like to create combinations of chemistries with compartments (“metabolic blocks”) that themselves will act as building blocks and give rise to the next level of organization.