Supramolecular Dynamics in Self-Assembling Materials

Project: Research project

Project Details


The broad objective of the proposed research is to acquire knowledge on
supramolecular dynamics, a poorly understood phenomenon utilized by biological
systems that would impact greatly on our ability to design scalable, functional materials
with spatial and temporal control. Following covalent synthesis, biological matter
acquires function through self-assembly. However, the assembled structures are not
static and maintain the ability to evolve and adapt to allow for error correction, defect
management, and changes in function. In synthetic materials, this type of behavior
remains largely unknown scientific territory with potential for discoveries. In our DOE
Biomolecular Materials program, we recently discovered a number of phenomena that
surprised us while probing structure and dynamics in supramolecular materials
containing peptides and DNA fragments. Taking advantage of our synthetic capabilities,
these observations now give us insight into new concepts to design materials that
achieve their properties and functions through supramolecular dynamics. We wish to
focus our program in this direction over the next three years using both biomolecular
and synthetic materials as well as their hybrids. The chemistries of interest include
peptides and electronically active molecules. The specific functions of interest will
depend on our findings but we envision that they could include ferroelectricity, catalytic
activity, and dynamic reversibility of mechanical properties, among others. We hope to
use self-assembly strategies with dynamic components at the supramolecular level to
control and develop new properties in the resulting bulk materials.
The synthesis of sophisticated materials by rational design is a research focus that is
still quite young, and success in this area requires synergistic activities at the interface
of chemistry, physics, engineering, and biology. Biologically derived as well as
biologically inspired engineering is particularly important as a strategy to advance the
potential functionality of synthetic soft matter. This strategy will certainly benefit from
advances in computational materials science and the use of synthetic biology as a
source of materials. Scientific outcomes from our program should be of interest to DOE
because soft matter functional sophistication should have direct impact on energy and
environmental technologies. Our original interest in self-assembly and templating as
fundamental phenomena is based on the notion that the sophisticated function of
materials found in biology requires organization at multiple length scales. Through work
proposed here, we hope to integrate our knowledge gained with DOE support with new
findings on supramolecular dynamics in soft materials.
Effective start/end date5/1/207/14/23


  • Department of Energy (DE-SC0020884)


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