Accelerated self-replication under non-equilibrium, periodic energy delivery

Rui Zhang, David A. Walker, Bartosz A. Grzybowski*, Monica Olver De La Cruz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Self-replication is a remarkable phenomenon in nature that has fascinated scientists for decades. In a self-replicating system, the original units are attracted to a template, which induce their binding. In equilibrium, the energy required to disassemble the newly assembled copy from the mother template is supplied by thermal energy. The possibility of optimizing self-replication was explored by controlling the frequency at which energy is supplied to the system. A model system inspired by a class of light-switchable colloids was considered where light is used to control the interactions. Conditions under which self-replication can be significantly more effective under non-equilibrium, cyclic energy delivery than under equilibrium constant energy conditions were identified. Optimal self-replication does not require constant energy expenditure. Instead, the proper timing at which energy is delivered to the system is an essential controllable parameter to induce high replication rates. A finger on the pulse: The rate of self-replication can be significantly enhanced by delivering energy to the system in pulses rather than continuously. In other words, optimal self-replication does not necessarily require constant energetic expenditure; instead what matters is the timing with which energy is delivered to the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-177
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 2014


  • colloids
  • kinetic Monte Carlo simulations
  • light switchable systems
  • non-equilibrium
  • self-replication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Catalysis


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