"Joanna Aizenberg, a materials scientist at Harvard University [and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering], has scoured the natural world for clues to biological building codes. She aims to decipher some of Mother Nature’s unique designs, including dirt-resistant sea urchins and sea sponges made of super-strong light-conducting glass, to develop novel materials that, like these organisms, can self-assemble and sense and respond to their environment."
Aizenberg's team searches for "biological systems that have unusual and sophisticated properties" and applies the principles to existing materials science to "make extremely sophisticated, efficient, and highly potent devices and materials".
The article includes a set of stunning images of:
- 'nanodreadlocks' (inspired by sea urchins) that adapt to environmental changes, grab particles and change their optical properties
- a polymer hydrogel that can switch between hydrophilic and hydrophobic
- growing finely detailed and complex inorganic structures on templates made from organic molecules
- research on energy-efficient building materials inspired by the Venus' Flower Basket sea sponge