Bottom-Up Soft Engineering

In the spirit of traditional condensed matter physics, this Objective focuses on understanding how the macroscopic properties of soft materials emerge from the chemical composition of, and the interactions between, the molecular components. We study the organisation of proteins into higher order assemblies, building on our successful manufacture of protein nanotubes (fibrils) from readily available protein sources. We explore these nanostructures as components of networks at the mesoscale, and aim to develop stable proteins as supramolecular building blocks for use in nanodevices and responsive materials. We also study the in vivo assembly of biological nanostructures, along with the dynamics and microrheology of soft systems like emulsions, lyotropic liquid crystals and mesoscale assemblies. Soft materials including hydrogels and synthetic polymers are also used as templates to achieve hierarchical complexity in synthetic biominerals and to direct nucleation of metal species. We can monitor molecular properties and mechanical deformation concurrently using uniquely powerfulrheo-NMR tools.For this Objective and beyond, Theme members employ a wide range of experimental techniques, including small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), laser diffraction, ellipsometry, and optical tweezers; the latter even enables studies of single molecule dynamics.