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Ayusman Sen

Verne M. Willaman Professor of Chemistry


Professional Appointments and Affiliations

Verne M. Willaman Professor of Chemistry

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Professor of Chemical Engineering 


440 Chemistry Building

University Park, PA 16802


1970: B.Sc. (Honours), University of Calcutta, India

1973: M. Sc., Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India

1978: Ph. D., University of Chicago, USA

Selected Honors and Awards

Langmuir Lecture Award, American Chemical Society

Humboldt Prize, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Elected Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry

Medal, Chemical Research Society of India (CRSI)

Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Faculty Scholar Medal, Pennsylvania State University

Paul J. Flory Award, IBM

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow


Self-Powered Nano and Micromotors and Pumps

Living systems are dynamic, multifunctional, and highly responsive, and they live in changing environments. Most engineered materials, in contrast, tend to be static with a single function and are suited for more predictable environments.  Access to rationally-designed dynamic materials that are capable of remodeling themselves and transforming their environment will (i) minimize waste (they will change their function and purpose rather than being single-use), (ii) improve performance (they will continuously evolve their structures to optimize performance), and (iii) accomplish tasks collectively and emergently (like a colony of ants) that a single constituent element (like a single ant) cannot perform.  By making these dynamic materials to be self-powered, they will also be capable of exploring and responding to their environment (sensor applications) without being tethered to a single power source or location.

We aim to create a new paradigm for molecular-level engineering of functional materials.  The work will leverage (a) the precise chemical control associated with molecular-level manipulation of materials to create functional building blocks, with (b) self-propelled mobility resulting from biomimetic catalytic energy harvesting from the local environment, with (c) the rapid and reversible assembly capabilities provided by emergent processes, with (d) the intelligence and communication capabilities that have been demonstrated in groups of interacting microorganisms, with (e) the ability to perform specific tasks in response to signals from each other and the environment.  Our approach is entirely synthetic and chemical, which allows us to create dynamic, intelligent materials in a way that is not impeded by the inherent constraints of biological systems.

Selected Publications

“Substrate-driven Chemotactic Assembly in an Enzyme Cascade,” Xi Zhao, Henri Palacci, Vinita Yadav, Michelle M. Spiering, Michael K. Gilson, Peter J. Butler, Henry Hess, Stephen J. Benkovic, Ayusman Sen, Nature Chemistry, 2018, 10, 311. (DOI: 10.1038/NCHEM.2905)


“Powering Motion with Enzymes,” Xi Zhao, Kayla Gentile, Farzad Mohajerani, and Ayusman Sen, Acc. Chem. Res., 2018, 51, 2373. (DOI:10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00286)


“Chemically Propelled Molecules and Machines,” Krishna K. Dey and Ayusman Sen, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 7666. (DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b02347)


“‘Fuelled’ Motion: Phoretic Motility and Collective Behaviour of Active Colloids,” Pierre Illien, Ramin Golestanian and Ayusman Sen, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2017, 46, 5508. (DOI: 10.1039/C7CS00087A)


“ChemicallyControlled Spatiotemporal Oscillations of Colloidal Assemblies,” Alicia Altemose, Maria A Sánchez-Farrán, Wentao Duan, Steve Schulz, Ali Borhan, Vincent H Crespi, and Ayusman Sen, Angew. Chem., Int. Ed., 2017, 56, 7817. (DOI: 10.1002/anie.201703239)


“Catalytic Motors: Quo Vadimus?” Krishna Kanti Dey, Flory Wong, Alicia Altemose, and Ayusman Sen, Curr. Opinion Coll. Interface Sci., 2016, 21, 4. (DOI: 10.1016/j.cocis.2015.12.001)


“Synthetic Micro/Nanomotors and Pumps: Fabrication and Applications,” Flory Wong, Krishna Kanti Dey, and Ayusman Sen, Annu. Rev. Mater. Res., 2016, 46, 407. (DOI: 10.1146/annurev-matsci-070115-032047)


“Convective Flow Reversal in Self-powered Enzyme Micropumps,” Isamar Ortiz-Rivera, Henry Shum, Arjun Agrawal, Ayusman Sen, and Anna C. Balazs, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 2016, 113, 2585. (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517908113)


“Self-Powered Enzyme Micropumps,” Samudra Sengupta, Debabrata Patra, Isamar Ortiz-Rivera, Arjun Agrawal, Sergey Shklyaev, Krishna K. Dey, Ubaldo Co´rdova-Figueroa, Thomas E. Mallouk, and Ayusman Sen, Nature Chemistry, 2014, 6, 415. (DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1895)


H-index: 85; Sum of the Times Cited: 24,900

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