Making Waves: Harnessing Photons for Smart Materials
Posted May 30, 2008
Like the complex molecular systems that make up living cells, engineers would like to build synthetic systems that have their blueprints built into their chemical composition. Such systems would self-organize, respond to stimuli, and adapt. Though synthetic "intelligent materials" don't exist yet, researchers have made progress in understanding and building comparatively simple "smart materials" that organize to form regular defined two-dimensional structures based on molecular interactions such as hydrogen bonding and Van der Waals interactions.
At the Academy's Soft Materials Discussion Group meeting on April 9, 2008, researchers revealed how in the world of such smart materials, light can play many roles: as a clean, inexpensive reagent for patterning surfaces, as a component in lasers that construct more complex 2-D and 3-D crystals, and as a medium that smart materials can manipulate.
Nicholas Turro's group
The Turro group in the Department of Chemistry at Columbia University collaborates with Koberstein's group to build photochemically reactive hard and soft surfaces.
The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies
An interdepartmental institute funded by the U.S. Army Research Office, its goal is to apply nanotechnologies to help protect soldiers.
Ned Thomas and colleagues describe the potential of phononic crystals.
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Jeffrey T. Koberstein, PhD
Jeffrey Koberstein is a professor at Columbia University, where he holds the Percy and Vida Hudson Chair in Chemical Engineering. He completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin and his PhD at the University of Massachusetts. He began his independent career as an assistant professor at Princeton University in 1980 and moved to the University of Connecticut in 1986. After moving to Columbia, he served as professor and chair of chemical engineering from 2000 to 2005. Koberstein is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society and received the 2006 Stine Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Edwin Thomas, PhD
Edwin (Ned) Thomas is a professor and department head of Materials Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he is also the founding director of strategic planning for the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. He completed PhD in materials science at Cornell University. Prior to moving to MIT in 1989, he had held faculty appointments at both the University of Minnesota and at the University of Massachusetts. Thomas is a fellow of the American Physical Society and has won two Special Creativity Awards from the National Science Foundation.
Before hanging up her labcoat, Sarah Webb earned a PhD in bioorganic chemistry from Indiana University. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she writes about science, health, and technology for publications including Science, Science News, Discover, and Nature Reports Stem Cells.