The research of the Hanczyc Lab at the University of Trento seeks to integrate various functional aspects of artificial life, synthetic life, and natural life. We have expertise in interfacial dynamics, modeling of complex chemistry, optimization strategies, robot-chemistry interfaces, fundamentals of intelligent materials, synthetic biology, and new bio-inspired materials for architecture and engineering. A droplet in water

Research directions

  • Artificial Cells
    We are currently developing several distinct types of artificial cells in the laboratory, based on lipid bilayer interfaces and droplet-based emulsions. Several life-like characteristics are explored including self-movement, self-division, biochemical transformation, group dynamics and self-identity. In parallel with developing new artificial cell technologies we are exploring the use of artificial cells in natural cell ecologies. See our funded EU project: ACDC: https://acdch2020.eu

  • Artificial Biology, Robotics and Art
    ABRA (Artificial Biology, Robotics and Art) is a project aimed to address innovation and renewal of education by developing transdisciplinary higher education methods that bridge the arts and sciences for enhanced sustainability, specializing in the fields of artificial biology, robotics, and art.
    The project explicitly promotes transdisciplinary knowledge and capacity building in higher education in order to tackle the skills gaps in addressing environmental problems and climate change, and promoting excellence in teaching and skills development for students and educators. See our funded project: ABRA: https://www.abra-hub.net

Group members

  • Martin M. Hanczyc, PI
  • Silvia Holler, post-doc
  • Alessia Faggian, post-doc
  • Richard Loeffler, post-doc
  • Federica Casiraghi, PhD student
  • Matteo Degrassi, Phd student
  • Adriano Caliari, visiting PhD student
  • Aitor Patino Diaz, visiting PhD student
  • Lorena Cebolla, project manager


  • Jitka Čejková, Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague Takashi Ikegami, University of Tokyo, Japan Christian Kerrigan, London, UK
  • Pietro Faccioli, Trento
  • Antonella Motta, Trento
  • Emiliano Biasini, Trento
  • Vicenzo Sglavo, Trento
  • Nicola Pugno, Trento
  • J Dixon, UConn, USA
  • Jerzy Gorecki, Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
  • Shinpei Tanaka, School of Integrated Arts & Sciences, Hiroshima University, Japan
  • Tetsuya Yomo, East China Normal University, China

Selected publications

Holler, S., & Hanczyc, M. M. (2020). Autoselective transport of mammalian cells with a chemotactic droplet. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-10.

Hanczyc, M. M. (2020) Engineering Life: A Review of Synthetic Biology. Artificial Life 26 (2), 260-273.

Loffler, R.J.G., Hanczyc, M. M. and Gorecki J. (2019) A hybrid camphor–camphene wax material for studies on self-propelled motion. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. Advance Article

Pasternak, G., Yang, Y., Santos, B. B., Brunello, F., Hanczyc, M. M., & Motta, A. (2019). Regenerated silk fibroin membranes as separators for transparent microbial fuel cells. Bioelectrochemistry, 126, 146-155.

Uluşeker, C., Torres-Bacete, J., García, J. L., Hanczyc, M. M., Nogales, J., & Kahramanoğulları, O. (2019). Quantifying dynamic mechanisms of auto-regulation in Escherichia coli with synthetic promoter in response to varying external phosphate levels. Scientific reports, 9(1), 2076.

Pasternak, G., & Hanczyc, M. M. (2019). Novel method for detecting and quantifying phenol with transient response of glycolytic oscillations of synchronised yeast cells. Sensing and Bio-Sensing Research, 100259.

You, J., Wallis, L., Radisavljevic, N., Pasternak, G., Sglavo, V. M., Hanczyc, M. M., Greenman, J & Ieropoulos, I. (2019). A Comprehensive Study of Custom-Made Ceramic Separators for Microbial Fuel Cells: Towards “Living” Bricks. Energies, 12(21), 4071.

Matsushita-Ishiodori, Y., Hanczyc, M. M., Wang, A., Szostak, J. W., & Yomo, T. (2019). Using Imaging Flow Cytometry to Quantify and Optimize Giant Vesicle Production by Water-in-oil Emulsion Transfer Methods. Langmuir.

Maurer, Sarah E., Kristian Tølbøl Sørensen, Zaki Iqbal, Jacqueline Nicholas, Kevin Quirion, Michael Gioia, Pierre-Alain Monnard, and Hanczyc, M. M. "Vesicle Self-Assembly of Monoalkyl Amphiphiles under the Effects of High Ionic Strength, Extreme pH, and High Temperature Environments." Langmuir 34, no. 50 (2018): 15560-15568.

Holler, S., Porcelli, C., Ieropoulos, I. A., & Hanczyc, M. M. 2018. Transport of live cells under sterile conditions using a chemotactic droplet. Scientific reports, 8(1), 8408.

Monnard, P. A., & Hanczyc, M. M. 2018. Self-assembly and primitive membrane formation: between stability and dynamism. In Self-assembly: From Surfactants To Nanoparticles. Wiley-VCH. (Book Chapter)

Hanczyc, M. M., & Monnard, P. A. 2017. Primordial membranes: more than simple container boundaries. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 40, 78-86.

Bavastrello, V., Caliari, A., Pesce, I., Bagatolli, L. A., & Hanczyc, M. M. 2017. Easy and Fast Preparation of Large and Giant Vesicles from Highly Confined Thin Lipid Films Deposited at the Air–Water Interface. BioNanoScience, 1-11.

Čejková, J., Banno, T., Hanczyc, M. M., & Štěpánek, F. 2017. Droplets As Liquid Robots. Artificial life, 23(4), 528-549.

Gordon, R., Hanczyc, M. M., N.D. Denkov, M.A. Tiffany & S.K. Smoukov 2017. Emergence of polygonal shapes in oil droplets and living cells: The potential role of tensegrity in the origin of life. In: Habitability of the Universe Before Earth [in series: Astrobiology: Exploring Life on Earth and Beyond, eds. Pabulo Henrique Rampelott, Joseph Seckbach & Richard Gordon]. R. Gordon & A.A. Sharov, (Eds.) Amsterdam, Elsevier B.V.: (Book Chapter)

Čejková, J., Holler, S., Quyen, N. T., Kerrigan, C., Štěpánek, F. & Hanczyc, M. M. 2017, Chemotaxis and chemokinesis of living and non-living objects. Advances in Unconventional Computing (edited by Adamatzky, A.) Springer. (Book Chapter)

Čejková, J., Štěpánek, F., Hanczyc, M. M. 2016. Evaporation-induced pattern formation of decanol droplets. Langmuir, 32 (19), 4800–4805.

Hadorn, M., Boenzli, E., Hanczyc, M. M. 2016. Specific and reversible DNA-directed self-assembly of modular vesicle-droplet hybrid materials. Langmuir, 2016, 32 (15), 3561–3566.

Salar-García, M. J., Gajda, I., Ortiz-Martínez, V. M., Greenman, J., Hanczyc, M. M., de Los Ríos, A. P., & Ieropoulos, I. A. 2016. Microalgae as substrate in low cost terracotta-based microbial fuel cells: Novel application of the catholyte produced. Bioresource Technology, 209, 380-385.

Kunstmann-Olsen, C., Hanczyc, M. M., Hoyland, J., Rasmussen, S. and Rubahn, H.G., 2016. Uniform droplet splitting and detection using Lab-on-Chip Flow Cytometry on a microfluidic PDMS device. Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical.

Ikegami T, Horibe N, Hanczyc, M. M. 2015. Potential Memory Effects in Self-Moving Oil Droplets. International Journal of Unconventional Computing. 11.5-6: 345-355.

Andersen JL, Flamm C, Hanczyc, M. M., Merkle D. 2015. Towards Optimal DNA-Templated Computing. International Journal of Unconventional Computing. May 1;11.

Hanczyc, M. M., Parrilla, J. M., Nicholson, A., Yanev, K., Stoy, K. 2015. Creating and maintaining chemical artificial life by robotic symbiosis. Artificial Life, doi:10.1162/ARTL_a_00151

Hanczyc, M. M. 2014. Droplets: Unconventional Protocell Model with Life-Like Dynamics and Room to Grow. Life, 4(4), 1038-1049.

Čejková, J., Novák, M., Štěpánek, F., Hanczyc, M. M. 2014. Dynamics of chemotactic droplets in salt concentration gradients. Langmuir, 30(40), 11937-11944.

Andersen JK, Andersen T, Flamm C, Hanczyc, M. M., Merkle D, Stadler PF. 2013. Navigating the Chemical Space of HCN Polymerization and Hydrolysis: Guiding Graph Grammars by Mass Spectrometry Data. Entropy. 15(10), 4066-4083.

Armstrong R, Hanczyc, M. M.. 2013. Bütschli Dynamic Droplet System. Artificial Life, 19(3-4): 331-346.

Caschera F, Rasmussen S, Hanczyc, M. M.. 2013. An Oil Droplet Division-Fusion Cycle, ChemPlusChem, 78: 52–54. doi: 10.1002/cplu.201200275.

Hadorn, M., Boenzli, E., Sørensen, K. T., De Lucrezia, D., Hanczyc, M. M., & Yomo, T. 2013. Defined DNA-mediated assemblies of gene-expressing giant unilamellar vesicles. Langmuir, 29(49), 15309-15319.

Hadorn M, Boenzli E, Sørensen KT, Fellermann H, Eggenberger Hotz P, Hanczyc, M. M.. 2012. Specific and Reversible DNA-directed Self-Assembly of Oil-in-Water Emulsion Droplets. PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1214386109.

Hadorn M, Boenzli E, Eggenberger Hotz P, Hanczyc, M. M.. 2012. Hierarchical Unilamellar Vesicles of Controlled Compositional Heterogeneity, PLoS ONE, 7 (11) e50156.