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-SC0020884-0003)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.