Biophysics and Soft Matter Group: Mission
To illuminate Nature’s design rules in order to empower us in the construction of our own materials and devices. To understand polysaccharide structure-function relationships, and how these are harnessed in controlling the functional properties of biomaterials.
In 1959 Richard Feynman declared there was ‘plenty of room at the bottom’ and famously discussed the possibility of manipulating things on a small scale. Today, many still envisage that the smart materials and devices of the 21 st century will be engineered at the nano-scale. Nature already performs such ‘bottom-up’ processing with aplomb, assembling structures at the molecular level in order to yield materials with desired macroscopic attributes. In addition biomaterials are often ‘smart’, changing their properties in response to external stimuli, and are processed at ambient temperatures, from sustainable resources, before being seamlessly recycled into the biosphere at the end of their usefulness. In order to be able to imitate Nature’s molecular wizardry in constructing our own materials and devices, the structure-function relationships it exploits must first be understood.
The beauty of a butterfly’s wing, achieved by the exquisite assembly of a natural photonic crystal, the poise of the ceiling walking Gecko, made possible by the nano-patterning of its feet and the warmth of the polar bear’s fleece, facilitated by the unique cavity-laden microstructure of its fur, are but a few examples of diverse macroscopic materials properties Nature has crafted at the molecular level.