Tools for Assembly: Bioinspiration in Materials Science

Tools for Assembly
Reported by
Don Monroe

Posted January 11, 2008


At the first meeting of the Academy's Soft Materials Discussion Group on November 7, 2007, two speakers discussed how biology can inspire strategies for making minerals or even synthesizing whole libraries of self-assembling molecules. After describing the versatility of biological assembly in the sea sponge, Joanna Aizenberg explained how her team uses this knowledge to create arrays of crystals in precise structures and locations. Virgil Percec described how he and his colleagues systematically catalogued structures formed in a library of organic molecules, and then used these structures to guide their synthesis of new compounds.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.

Journal Articles

Joanna Aizenberg

Aizenberg J, Tkachenko A, Weiner S, et al. 2001. Calcitic microlenses as part of the photoreceptor system in brittlestars. Nature 412: 819-822.

Aizenberg J, Muller DA, Grazul JL, Hamann DR. 2003. Direct fabrication of large micropatterned single crystals. Science 299: 1205-1208.

Aizenberg J, Hendler G. 2004. Designing efficient microlens arrays: lessons from Nature. J. Mater. Chem. 14: 2066-2072.

Aizenberg J, Weaver JC, Thanawala MS, et al. 2005. Skeleton of Euplectella sp.: structural hierarchy from the nanoscale to the macroscale. Science 309: 275-278.

Han YJ, Wysocki LM, Thanawala MS, et al. 2005. Template-dependent morphogenesis of oriented calcite crystals in the presence of magnesium ions. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 44: 2386-2390.

Han YJ, Aizenberg J. 2003. Face-selective nucleation of calcite on self-assembled monolayers of alkanethiols: effect of the parity of the alkyl chain. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 42: 3668-3670.

Sidorenko A, Krupenkin T, Taylor A, et al. 2007. Reversible switching of hydrogel-actuated nanostructures into complex micropatterns. Science 315: 487-490.

Sundar VC, Yablon AD, Grazul JL, et al. 2003. Fibre-optical features of glass sponge. Nature 424: 899-900.

Yang S, Chen G, Megens M, et al. 2005. Functional biomimetic microlens arrays with integrated pores. Advanced Materials 17: 435-438.

Virgil Percec

Kaucher MS, Peterca M, Dulcey AE, et al. 2007. Selective transport of water mediated by porous dendritic dipeptides. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129: 11698-11699.

Percec V, Glodde M, Bera TK, et al. 2002. Self-organization of supramolecular helical dendrimers into complex electronic materials. Nature 419: 384-387.

Percec V, Dulcey AE, Balagurusamy VS, et al. 2004. Self-assembly of amphiphilic dendritic dipeptides into helical pores. Nature 430: 764-768.

Percec V, Dulcey AE, Peterca M, et al. 2006. Principles of self-assembly of helical pores from dendritic dipeptides. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103: 2518-2523. FULL TEXT

Percec V, Peterca M, Sienkowska M, et al. 2006. Synthesis and retrostructural analysis of libraries of AB3 and constitutional isomeric AB2 phenylpropyl ether-based supramolecular dendrimers. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 128: 3324-3334.

Percec V, Dulcey AE, Peterca M, et al. 2007. Helical pores self-assembled from homochiral dendritic dipeptides based on L-Tyr and nonpolar alpha-amino acids. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129: 5992-6002.

Percec V, Won BC, Peterca M, Heiney PA. 2007. Expanding the structural diversity of self-assembling dendrons and supramolecular dendrimers via complex building blocks. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129: 11265-11278.

Rosen BM, Percec V. 2007. Mechanochemistry: a reaction to stress. Nature 446: 381-382.

Ungar G, Liu Y, Zeng X, et al. 2003. Giant supramolecular liquid crystal lattice. Science 299: 1208-1211.

Zeng X, Ungar G, Liu Y, et al. 2004. Supramolecular dendritic liquid quasicrystals. Nature 428: 157-160.


Joanna Aizenberg, PhD

Harvard University
e-mail | web site | publications

Joanna Aizenberg is the Gordon McKay Professor of Materials Science in Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is also the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Aizenberg moved to Harvard from Bell Laboratories at Lucent Technologies.

Aizenberg holds BS and MS degrees from Moscow State University, awarded in 1981 and 1984, respectively, and a PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science, awarded in 1996. She was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of George M. Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor in Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, from 1996 to 1998, when she joined Bell Labs.

Virgil Percec, PhD

University of Pennsylvania
e-mail | web site | publications

Virgil Percec is the P. Roy Vagelos Chair and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the university, Percec was a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Percec has received numerous honors and awards including an honorary degree from the University of Iasi in Romania in 2007, the Staudinger–Durrer Medal from ETH in Zurich, Switzerland in 2005, and the ACS Award in Polymer Chemistry in 2004.

Percec received his PhD from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry in Jassy, Romania. He did postdoctoral work at the University of Freiburg and the Institute of Polymer Science at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio.

Don Monroe

Don Monroe is a science writer based in Murray Hill, New Jersey. After getting a PhD in physics from MIT, he spent more than fifteen years doing research in physics and electronics technology at Bell Labs. He writes on physics, technology, and biology.