Bioinspired Materials


Project Leader(s):
Surya Mallapragada

Principal Investigators:
Mufit Akinc, Surya Mallapragada, Marit Nilsen-Hamilton, Ruslan Prozorov, Alex Travesset, David Vaknin

Postdoctoral Research Associates:
Wenjie Wang


The goal of this highly-interdisciplinary project is the synthesis and characterization of bioinspired hierarchical self-assembling polymer-inorganic nanocomposites. It seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What are the general design rules for bioinspired self-assembled polymer nanocomposites? To answer this question, a highly synergistic combination of theory and experiment will be implemented.
  • What experimental techniques or approaches can be developed or combined to probe the assembly at multiple length scales?

This work yields a robust and modular method for developing bioinspired hierarchical materials, with control over the formation as well as placement of an inorganic phase in the nanocomposite structure. This, in turn, leads to development of novel hybrid materials, lightweight and energy efficient, with potential for applications in fuel cells, spintronics, quantum computing, or magnetic actuators. This closely knit group, involving biochemists, chemists, materials scientists, engineers, and physicists, provides a unique skill set for this work; the success of their synergy has already been demonstrated by their bioinspired synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles.

Subtasks in this Project are:

  • Development of multiscale self-assembling bioinspired hybrid materials using bottom-up approaches. We design hierarchically self-assembling templates (synthetic polymers as well as protein- and peptide-based templates), and use bioinspired methods for room temperature synthesis of several energy-relevant hybrid materials with hierarchical order that are difficult to synthesize otherwise. (S. Mallapragada, M. Nilsen-Hamilton, M. Akinc, T. Prozorov, G. Kraus)
  • Development of techniques to probe assembly at multiple length scales and properties of these nanocomposites. We use a combination of solid-state NMR, scattering, and electron microscopy techniques to investigate the nanostructure and composition, and other characterization techniques to investigate the magneto-mechanical properties of these hybrid materials. (K. Schmidt-Rohr, B. Narasimhan, D. Vaknin)
  • Development of computational methods for understanding general design rules for self-assembled polymer nanocomposites. We develop and implement molecular simulations, using high performance computational approaches as a powerful tool to understand the underlying principles of self-assembly of complex structures, phase transformation between competing phases, as well as the response of a self assembled system to external stimuli. (A. Travesset-Casas, M. Lamm)


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Wang W J; Anderson N A; Travesset A; Vaknin D . 2012. Regulation of the Electric Charge in Phosphatidic Acid Domains. Journal of Physical Chemistry B. 116:7213-7220. abstract
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Wang W J; Bu W; Wang L J; Palo P E; Mallapragada S; Nilsen-Hamilton M; Vaknin D . 2012. Interfacial Properties and Iron Binding to Bacterial Proteins That Promote the Growth of Magnetite Nanocrystals: X-ray Reflectivity and Surface Spectroscopy Studies. Langmuir. 28:4274-4282. abstract
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Wang L J; Prozorov T; Palo P E; Liu X P; Vaknin D; Prozorov R; Mallapragada S; Nilsen-Hamilton M . 2012. Self-Assembly and Biphasic Iron-Binding Characteristics of Mms6, A Bacterial Protein That Promotes the Formation of Superparamagnetic Magnetite Nanoparticles of Uniform Size and Shape. Biomacromolecules. 13:98-105. abstract
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Jeon Y; Vaknin D; Bu W; Sung J; Ouchi Y; Sung W; Kim D . 2012. Surface Nanocrystallization of an Ionic Liquid. Physical Review Letters. 108:055502. abstract
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Lefevre C T; Menguy N; Abreu F; Lins U; Mihaly P; Prozorov T; Pignol D; Frankel R B; Bazylinski D A . 2011. A Cultured Greigite-Producing Magnetotactic Bacterium in a Novel Group of Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria. Science. 334:1720-1723. abstract
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Knorowski C; Travesset A . 2011. Materials design by DNA programmed self-assembly. Current Opinion in Solid State & Materials Science. 15:262-270. abstract
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Wang W J; Park R Y; Meyer D H; Travesset A; Vaknin D . 2011. Ionic Specificity in pH Regulated Charged Interfaces: Fe(3+) versus La(3+). Langmuir. 27:11917-11924. abstract
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Travesset A . 2011. Self-Assembly Enters the Design Era. Science. 334:183-184. abstract
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Lefevre C T; Frankel R B; Posfai M; Prozorov T; Bazylinski D A . 2011. Isolation of obligately alkaliphilic magnetotactic bacteria from extremely alkaline environments. Environmental Microbiology. 13:2342-2350. abstract
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Schlichting K E; Copeland-Johnson T M; Goodman M; Lipert R J; Prozorov T; Liu X P; McKinley T O; Lin Z Q; Martin J A; Mallapragada S K . 2011. Synthesis of a novel photopolymerized nanocomposite hydrogel for treatment of acute mechanical damage to cartilage. Acta Biomaterialia. 7:3094-3100. abstract
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