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Finding Inspiration for Functional Nanomaterials from Nature




for Members

Finding Inspiration for Functional Nanomaterials from Nature

Monday, June 21, 2021, 11:30 AM - 12:45 PM EDT


Presented By

The New York Academy of Sciences


Despite the advances of modern technology, nature still has many efficient and effective tools from its millions of years of evolution. Some of the most sophisticated new materials take inspiration from the natural design of the world, from buildings constructed like termite colonies to passively cool their interiors to water filters built from the proteins in human kidneys. Scientists are turning to nature even on the nanoscale, where the sophistication of natural technology still offers potential for functional materials. This webinar will feature two researchers designing new nanomaterials based on structures found in nature in order to accomplish a diverse range of tasks, from harvesting energy to filtering viruses from air.

In This Webinar, You’ll Learn:

  • How nature assembles complex functional structures;
  • The capabilities of natural design on the nanoscale;
  • How evaporating water from nanoporous materials can drive energy-efficient motors;
  • How pitcher plants help design devices to filter viruses like SARS-CoV-2 from air;
  • Future directions for nanoscale natural design.
Finding Inspiration for Functional Nanomaterials from Nature

Xi Chen, PhD
The City College of New York

Xi Chen is an Assistant Professor in the Nanoscience Initiative at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) and the Department of Chemical Engineering at the City College of New York since 2016. He grew up in China and received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Tsinghua University and Ph.D. from Stevens Institute of Technology. Chen then did a postdoc with Prof. Ozgur Sahin in Biological Sciences at Columbia University. His current research focuses on deciphering powerful and efficient evaporation-induced mechanical deformations in biological systems and replicating these mechanisms outside the biological context for evaporation-powered locomotion, green chemistry, and electricity generation.

Finding Inspiration for Functional Nanomaterials from Nature

Caitlin Howell, PhD
University of Maine

Caitlin Howell is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Maine. She earned her PhD in Physical Chemistry from Heidelberg University, Germany, studying the organization and orientation of biological molecules and cells at abiotic surfaces using spectroscopic techniques. She then completed a postdoc as a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University where she designed and tested bio-inspired surfaces for use in industry and medicine and worked toward moving those technologies to market. At the University of Maine, her group develops strategies for controlling biological systems at interfaces. In particular, they focus on looking to Nature for approaches that can expand the boundaries of what is currently possible.


Nonmember Student, Undergrad, Grad, Fellow
Member Student, Post-Doc, Fellow