Molecular machining in soft matter

Molecular-scale machines drive every significant biological process. Nature accumulates the work they produce and amplifies it through evolutionary-encoded mechanisms to achieve complex motion, e.g. cell motility and division, formation of neural networks, muscle contractions etc. Taking inspiration from Nature, we develop strategies to amplify the action of artificial molecular machines into pre-programmed motion. We have reported the translation of light-driven cis-trans isomerization to versatile helical motion and we are extending this approach towards designing artificial muscles and tissue-like materials for soft robotics.

Biomimetic design and function

In man-made systems, the precise reproduction of natural systems is not necessarily desirable, as the materials and assembly methods most suited to manipulation by humans are likely very different than those used by nature. We anticipate that sophisticated materials will come from understanding biological construction principles and learning how to exploit these in combination with our own technological constructions. We are emulating Nature's design principles to create sophisticated optical, mechanical or magnetic materials, with a special focus on chirality as a tool to encode complexity at different length scales.