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Palacci Group

Materiali Molli

Nature evolved to assemble complex architectures from simple building blocks consuming energy: bacteria form colonies, cells reshape, and muscles contract. The general physical principles that lead to those remarkable and robust phenomena remain, however, to be unveiled.

The Palacci group, aka Materiali Molli Lab, aims at unlocking the organization mechanisms such systems that consume energy. The group’s research is experimental and curiosity-driven, primarily focused on systems at the colloidal scale – a microscopic scale just one hundredth of the thickness of a human hair. The researchers investigate how to control materials by powering them from within and understand how to achieve order from noise. They are also exploring the design of modular microbots, carrying the physical and computational power to perform programmed dynamics without external control or feedback. Ultimately, the Materiali Molli Lab aims to emulate the fidelity and tunability of materials and organisms observed in nature using human-made or biomimetic materials.


Current Projects

Emergent behavior in Active Matter | Materials powered from within | Smart Materials | Metamachines, machines made of machines


Grober D, Palaia I, Ucar MC, Hannezo EB, Šarić A, Palacci JA. 2023. Unconventional colloidal aggregation in chiral bacterial baths. Nature Physics. 19, 1680–1688. View

Martinet Q, Aubret A, Palacci JA. 2023. Rotation control, interlocking, and self‐positioning of active cogwheels. Advanced Intelligent Systems. 5(1), 2200129. View

Palacci JA. 2022. A soft active matter that can climb walls. Science. 377(6607), 710–711. View

Aubret A, Martinet Q, Palacci JA. 2021. Metamachines of pluripotent colloids. Nature Communications. 12(1), 6398. View

View All Publications

ReX-Link: Jérémie Palacci


Since 2023 Professor, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA)
2021-2023 Assistant Professor, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA)
2021-2023 Adjunct Professor UCSD, USA
2020-2021 Associate Professor (with tenure), University of California, San Diego, USA
2015-2020 Assistant  Professor, University of California, San Diego, USA
2010-2015 Postdoc Center for Soft Matter Research, NYU, NYC, USA
2010 PhD, Université de Lyon, France

Selected Distinctions

2023 ERC Consolidator Grant
2020-2021 Visiting Professor, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France (9 months)
2020 Visiting Professor, Chaire Total, ESPCI, Paris, France (1 month)
2018 Hellman Fellow in Physics
2017 Sloan Research Fellow in Physics
2016 National Science Foundation CAREER Award 
2014 Blavatnik Postdoctoral Finalist Award in Physical Sciences and Engineering         
2011 Michelin Dissertation Award, French Physical Society (SFP) 

Additional Information

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Physics & Beyond at ISTA

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