Molecular Design and Biomimetics

Using nature’s design rules as an inspiration in advancing biomedical, energy and electronics innovation through self-assembling molecules to create intelligent materials for better component control and for synthesis into higher-order systems.

The field of biomimicry represents one of the most exciting transdisciplinary research areas of the 21st century. With nearly 4 billion years of research and development, nature has identified appropriate and longlasting solutions to many of the research problems scientists are trying to solve. We propose to develop a world-class Center for Molecular Design and Biomimicry at the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

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Dr. Hao Yan’s research team has built a variety of 2-D and 3-D structures at a scale 1,000 times smaller than a human hair, and now, he wants to push their efforts to build ever smaller, and design at the scale of individual atoms, molecules and chemical bonds, which he has dubbed “Angstrom level control.” The inspiration behind the new center is to move beyond DNA nanotechnology and develop new bio-inspired tools – built molecule by molecule – to solve current challenges in medicine, energy and electronics. Such a field could spawn the growth of entirely new industries.

Many of the biomimicry initiatives are developing biomimetic materials by identifying, adapting, and modifying existing biological components for subsequent integration with manmade materials. The biomimicry center at the Biodesign Institute will distinguish itself significantly from the majority of other biomimicry efforts around the world by designing intelligent materials and processes that will afford greater control over the individual components and the ability to synthesize higher-order systems.

The center will have five essential research faculty labs devoted to:

  1. Design: Biomimetic designers will computationally design and model the information-bearing molecular building blocks and predict how these building blocks will interact to create functional macromolecules.
  2. Synthesis: Researchers in the area of biomimetic synthesis will focus on actually generating the information-bearing molecular building blocks.
  3. Assembly: The assembly team will develop reliable platforms to assemble the building blocks into super-structures with the desired properties, behavior and functionalities.
  4. Programming: Programmers will propel the developed molecular assemblies to the next level of complexity, building the type of molecular circuitry that is at the core of most biological systems.
  5. Materials and systems engineering: Biomimetic materials and systems engineers will integrate the newly developed materials with manmade systems, examining and tweaking interfaces to achieve optimal functionality.

Support for the establishment of the new center includes federal funding and ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. As the center grows and matures, large collaborative grants with other universities and industrial partnerships will serve to accelerate discovery.

The Center for Molecular Design and Biomimicry will be the 12th research center at the Biodesign Institute. Its research will complement the institute’s mission to overcome complex global challenges by creating bio-inspired solutions in biomedicine and health outcomes, sustainability and national security.