Materials found in nature have a variety of properties and functions that have yet to be recapitulated in modern synthetic materials. Using semisynthetic and biologically derived macromolecules we hope to create soft materials that capture the form and function of biological tissues. The natolab will tackle this goal in three main areas:
Control of topological features in soft materials to control bulk mechanical properties. Nature has precise control over the two- and three-dimensional structures of biomacromolecules. Inspired by nature's toolbox we hope to create materials which can rapidly change properties due to direct manipulation of topological structure.
The creation and design of novel living supramolecular polymerization monomers. Living supramolecular polymerization is a mechanism implicated in Alzheimer's disease and other prion based disorders. By studying and creating monomers which can access this unique type of supramolecular polymerization we hope to subsequently better understand these diseases as well as access interesting material properties.
Far-from-equilibrium materials. Modern synthetic materials are typically uniform equilibrated systems which are ultimately static. Materials found in nature are dominated by dynamic heterogeneous states which lead to their unique and interesting properties such as self-replication and self-repair. We aim to find ways to create materials which can controllably enter these dynamic states to enable advanced functions.