Programmable Soft Matter: From Active Membranes to Self-Replication
Alexander Böker is director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research in Potsdam, Germany and Chair of Polymer Materials and Polymer Technology at the University of Potsdam. His research deals with the integration of biological functions into polymer materials, the synthesis of multifunctional patchy particles and self-assembly techniques to yield functional nanostructures.
This contribution discusses various approaches to create programmable soft matter either by directly incorporating functional biomolecules into polymeric materials or by transferring concepts conceived by nature to fully artificial materials.
The first approach involves the synthesis of polymer-protein conjugates and their self-assembly to form biofunctional membranes. We introduce a new strategy using engineered natural protein channels decorated with polymer chains followed by self-assembly at a fluid interface to form ultrathin, permeable and highly selective membranes. A similar strategy can be used to incorporate sensitive enzymes into a fluid-like polymer membrane environment, thus allowing to almost completely retaining their initial activity after immobilization and even boosting their temperature stability.
The second example is aiming towards creating artificial materials systems that are able to self-replicate. To achieve this, an indispensable prerequisite is the multi-directional control of interactions between the building blocks of materials. Thus, we aim to create a new class of multi-patch colloidal particles via an advanced micro-contact printing technique yielding patches of different chemical or physical functionalities. The new production process allows precise control over the patch location and chemistry and thus also gives particles that go well beyond known ABA- or ABC-type Janus particles.