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Supramolecular machineries with life-like mechanical functions

Objective

Artificial molecular motors and switches have the potential to become a core part of nanotechnology. However, a wide gap in length scales still remains unaccounted for, between the operation of these molecules in solution, where their individual mechanical action is randomly dispersed in the Brownian storm, and on the other hand their action at the macroscopic level, e.g. in polymer networks and crystals.

This proposal is about bridging this gap, by developing chemo-mechanical transduction strategies that will allow dynamic molecules to perform a range of unprecedented tasks, e.g. by generating strong directional forces at the nanoscale, and through shape-shifting microscopic formations.

This project aims to harness the mechanically-purposeful motion of dynamic molecules as to generate measurable forces from the nanoscale, and ultimately establish operational principles for chemo-mechanical transduction in supramolecular systems.

In my wholly synthetic approach, I draw inspiration from the operational principles of microtubules. I will incorporate molecular photo-switches into supramolecular tubes, and enable the controlled growth and disassembly of the tubes by using light as the energy input. Thus, I will: (i) Synthesize stiff supramolecular tubes that grow actively under continuous illumination, and disassemble with a power stroke as soon as illumination stops; (ii) Measure, and harvest the forces generated by the tubes to manipulate individual nanoparticles with a sense of directionality; and (iii) Encapsulate the tubes into water droplets and vesicles, to yield shape-shifting, and eventually rudimentary splitting models for cells.

This project reaches beyond the state of the art in adaptive molecular nano-systems, by pioneering strategies to engineer and harness strain in supramolecular assemblies. It thus lays the foundations for machineries that are capable of manipulating matter at length scales that are also those at which the cytoskeleton operates.

Field of science

  • /medical and health sciences/basic medicine/neurology/stroke
  • /engineering and technology/nanotechnology
  • /engineering and technology/materials engineering/crystals

Call for proposal

ERC-2018-COG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-COG - Consolidator Grant

Host institution

RIJKSUNIVERSITEIT GRONINGEN
Address
Broerstraat 5
9712CP Groningen
Netherlands
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 752 767,50

Beneficiaries (2)

RIJKSUNIVERSITEIT GRONINGEN
Netherlands
EU contribution
€ 1 752 767,50
Address
Broerstraat 5
9712CP Groningen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
UNIVERSITEIT TWENTE

Participation ended

Netherlands
EU contribution
€ 247 232,50
Address
Drienerlolaan 5
7522 NB Enschede
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments