Supramolecular helices are a striking expression of chirality which is found at every level of biological materials, from plant cell walls to bones. Helical biomaterials formed out of equilibrium display multiple length scales, adaptation of structure to function and responsiveness to changing environments, a unique set of features that constitutes a fascinating source of inspiration for materials science. However, matching the complexity of these biological architectures by rational design of synthetic systems remains a major contemporary challenge. The aim of this project is to develop sophisticated helical materials with responsive architectures that are of interest in optical communication, energy management, photonic materials and mechanical actuation.
The innovative and versatile approach proposed here consists in using light i) to engineer the period, handedness and orientation of the cholesteric helix, and ii) to stabilise the structures formed out of equilibrium by in-situ formation of polymer networks. Three tasks will run concurrently:
Task 1: Stimuli-responsive infrared super-reflectors
Task 2: Dynamic templates for long range ordering of nano-objects
Task 3: Photomechanical actuation of helicoids and spiral ribbons
“Phelix” will yield complex systems that reach beyond the state of the art in stimuli-responsive materials, push the frontiers of research on supramolecular helices and shed new light on transmission of chirality across length scales. Ultimately, the omnipresence of helical structures in nature means that biomedical applications could be envisioned also. The proposal builds on my recent investigations on light-responsive helices in cholesteric liquid crystals. I have demonstrated the expertise in liquid crystals, photochemistry and microscopy required for this research and my leadership experience ensures its success.
Call for proposal
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