Biophysics and Soft Matter Seminar

Biological fabrication of hierarchically structured soft matter

Matt Harrington, McGill Chemistry
Location: Online

Monday, 31 January 2022 02:00PM PST


A number of living organisms, such as mussels and spiders, rapidly fabricate hierarchically structured polymeric fibers with excellent material properties (e.g. high toughness, self-healing). These materials exhibit bottom-up supramolecular self-assembly from biomolecular building blocks via rapid “fluid-to-fiber” transformation. Employing a cross-disciplinary approach, our group has harnessed advanced material characterization techniques, including confocal Raman spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction and focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM), as well as traditional biochemical approaches to investigate the fabrication of various bio-fibers, including the mussel byssus, velvet worm slime fibers and mistletoe viscin fibers. Elucidation of the physical and chemical forces driving assembly of such materials provides design principles for inspiring “green” polymer processing methods, as well as for fabrication of materials for biomedical applications (e.g. tissue scaffolds, surgical adhesives). Our comparative study has identified several novel assembly mechanisms, which may have relevance in these realms. In this talk, I will highlight recent results from our investigations.