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 by integrating elements of the previous approaches into a unique strategy. 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.
Read about our work in Scientific American from May 6, 2009... | [mirror]
Read about our work in NSF Discoveries from November 20, 2008... | [mirror]
Read our Nature Highlight from November 1, 2007... | [mirror]
Read about our work in PhysicsWorld from November 6, 2007... | [mirror]
Read about our work in NanoTechWeb from Novermber 8, 2007... | [mirror]
Read our Science News Highlight from January 22, 2005... | [mirror]
Read the C&E News Highlight on nanomotors from February 21, 2005... | [mirror]
Read the Angew. Chem. News on CRSI Medal awarded to Ayusman Sen from January 31, 2011... | [mirror]
Read about our work in JACS from September 30, 2011... | [mirror]
Read about our work in Nature Chemistry from November 23, 2011... | [mirror]
Read about our work in Chemistry World from February 9, 2012... | [mirror]
Read about our work in C&E News from January 25, 2013... | [mirror]
Read about our work in JACS Spotlight from February 13, 2013... | [paper link]
Read about our work in Chemistry World from November 4, 2013... | [mirror]