New bio-inspired materials: When chemistry meets optics, mechanics and surface science
Living systems sense, respond to, and harvest energy from the changing environment by interweaving chemistry, mechanics, optics, electronics, and fluid dynamics across time and length scales. In this lecture, materials chemist Joanna Aizenberg will give us a taste of how the inspiration from nature teaches us to break barriers between these fields in the synthetic realm and leads to fascinating new concepts in materials design. She will look at a deep sea sponge and envision a green, illuminated skyscraper that harvests energy from the wind. The brittle star’s intricate skeleton will inspire dynamic optical systems that can collect light. She will present cilia-inspired adaptive hairy surfaces that alter their wetting, optical, and adhesive behavior via chemomechanical reconfiguration of tiny nanostructures. Creating liquid-sensing “noses” from chemically patterned photonic crystals inspired by butterflies, or ultra-slippery, antifouling surfaces with self-tuning transparency inspired by pitcher plant and cacti – these are just the beginning of the multifunctional, dynamic materials possibilities waiting to be explored at the interdisciplinary border between biology, chemistry, and physics.