Explore Chemical Diversity in Complex System Toward Functional Materials
The scientific community has been striving for decades to generate biomimetic materials to access many of the beneficial properties seen in Nature. Significant efforts have been devoted to systems that contain a small number of variables and can be mastered without too many unknowns. However, there has been limited success in generating complex systems as seen in Nature. As the systemic complexity increases, the phase diagram becomes less manageable with many possible states and kinetic pathways. Our central hypothesis is that rational design can lead to control over system energy landscape and possibly, kinetic pathways and ultimately, multi-component functional materials with properties similar to that seen in natural systems. For this talk, I will discuss two examples. One is on hierarchical nanocomposites composed of 6 ingredients where entropic contributions lead to controlled nanoparticle dispersion and formation of new phases unseen before. The other is on the design of random heteropolymers as protein mimics where statistic control over monomer sequences defines the energy landscape of protein-polymer interactions and enables proteins to function outside of their native environments.