Argonne National Laboratory Biomaterials U.S. Department of Energy

Workshop on Self-Assembled Bio-Inspired Materials for Energy

George Whitesides from Harvard University presented "Biomaterials for Energy," which described a broad spectrum of problems, on different levels of complexity, related to biomaterials research and their impact on science and technology in the U.S. and worldwide.
Raymond Goldstein of Cambridge University, England presented "The Role of Collective Behavior in Evolutionary Transitions to Multicellularity: Some Lessons From Green Algae." This lecture was focused on a fundamental biological issue, the nature of evolutionary transitions from single cell organisms to multicellular ones.

More than 100 researchers attended a workshop on Self-Assembled Bio-Inspired Materials for Energy Feb. 4-5, at Argonne aimed at identifying challenges and developing a strategy for advancing biomaterials for broad energy applications.

The organizers of the workshop were Jyotsana Lal, Ursula Perez-Salaz, Raymond Osborn and Igor Aronson (all from MSD).

The workshop also sought to establish communication and collaborations between researchers at Argonne and neighboring universities working on biomaterials.

The event was opened by Stephen Streiffer (PSE), deputy associate laboratory director, followed by two keynote lectures by George Whitesides from Harvard University and Raymond Goldstein of Cambridge University, England.

In his keynote lecture, "Biomaterials for Energy," Whitesides described a broad spectrum of problems, on different levels of complexity, related to biomaterials research and their impact on science and technology in the U.S. and worldwide. He outlined the challenges that civilization may face in the rapidly changing world due to the shortage of natural resources and global urbanization. He also talked about the opportunities to address these challenges via innovations from miniaturization to dramatic reduction of the manufacturing cost for medical diagnostics to hybrid bio-mechanical (soft) robots and the use of low-grade heat.

Goldstein's lecture was focused on a fundamental biological issue: the nature of evolutionary transitions from single cell organisms to multicellular ones. He summarized recent theoretical and experimental works addressing a number of interrelated aspects of evolutionary transitions in the Volvocine green algae, which range from unicellular motile micro-organism Chlamydomonas, to multi-cellular organism Volvox, containing thousands of cells. The talk was focused on two issues involving collective behavior, flagellar synchronization and phototaxis and their implications for developmental and evolutionary biology.

The keynote lectures were followed by invited presentations on broad aspects of fundamental and applied materials research in the laboratory and academia. John Mitchell (MSD), senior chemist, outlined the vision for the emerging laboratory wide initiative Materials for Energy.

Gregory Voth (CLS) from the University of Chicago presented an overview of a systematic connection between all-atom molecular dynamics, coarse-grained modeling and mesoscopic phenomena for multiprotein complexes. Phillip Messersmith of Northwestern University discussed application of catechol-based materials for rapid-setting liquid adhesives for tissue repair and surface modification of materials.

Monica Olvera de la Cruz, also of Northwestern, focused on spontaneous buckling of regular and irregular polyhedra membranes via a mechanism that predicted a new family of polyhedral shells. Alex Snezhko (MSD), assistant physicist, presented new results on self-assembled active magnetic colloids performing simple robotic functions.

Margaret Gardel of the University of Chicago discussed new experimental results on contractivity of active materials formed by cytoskeletal filaments and motors. Petr Kral of the University of Illinois at Chicago presented results of molecular dynamics simulations of carbon nanotube-based nanofluidics and nano-machines.

Bartosz Grzybowski of Northwestern University outlined novel nano-manufacturing techniques based on auto-catalytic chemical reactions. Harry Christopher Fry (CNM), assistant scientist, presented a design of peptides employing documented secondary structural motifs to elicit self-assembly into useful nanoarchitectures.

The invited presentations were followed by a poster session and discussion panel. More than 20 posters were presented by students and postdocs from the laboratory and neighboring universities.

The discussion panel, moderated by Streiffer, included representatives from laboratory management such as Argonne Distinguished Fellow and Division Director Amanda Petford-Long (CNM) and Associate Division Director Christopher Jacobsen (XSD). The panel also included Tijana Rajh (CNM), group leader of the NanoBio Interfaces Group, Monica Olvera de la Cruz, Lawrence Lurio from Northern Illinois and Whitesides. Each panelist made three-to-five minute presentations followed by questions and comments from the audience.

Petford-Long, Rajh and Jacobsen highlighted Argonne’s state-of-the-art instrumentation, capabilities in nano-technology, X-ray scattering science and collaboration modes between Argonne and academia.

Cruz indicated interest in greater collaboration with Argonne scientists and wanted to see a mechanism in place to encourage this. In concluding remarks Whitesides argued that the energy applications of biomaterials are just emerging; it is a challenge as well as an opportunity for a broad scientific community.

Despite onerous weather conditions in the Midwest, the workshop attracted more than 100 professors, postdocs, graduate students, laboratory scientists and senior laboratory management. In addition, participants from Indiana's Notre Dame University and Iowa's Ames National Laboratory traveled to Argonne to attend the workshop and establish new collaborations.

Initial feedback from all participants was that the workshop was a great success. The workshop clearly demonstrated great interest in bio-materials research in the Chicago area and nation-wide. It also showed that there is a need to establish a new inter-disciplinary, inter-institutional program on bio-inspired materials with Argonne being the nucleation center for this activity.

View photos from the workshop.

View workshop details and program.

May 2011

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