The field of biological and bioinspired materials is continuously growing as the demand for smart and multifunctional materials continues to increase. Biological materials such as bones and shells as well as biological glues and brilliantly colored animal skin are fascinating and often multifunctional. Studying these materials can provide insights into structure-function relationships and thus provide important clues for smart design of bioinspired materials. In our group, we do basic research to understand specific biological materials as well as utilizing this understanding to produce new bioinspired materials in the lab as detailed below.
The functionality of many biological materials is derived not only from the chemistry of the material, but even more so from its structure that ranges across length scales from the molecular to the anatomic. We work to elucidate these structure-function relationships in selected mineralized materials such as bone. We do this taking a multimodal approach, mostly focused on X-ray imaging.
Moreover, we collaborate with medical doctors and research groups around the world in a highly interdisciplinary manner to obtain the broadest possible understanding of these complex materials in health and disease.
The individual student projects can be made more or less heavy on the data analysis side which is mainly performed with Matlab programming.
The demand for smart, multifunctional, and/or adaptive materials is increasing, but the design and fabrication of such materials by traditional methods is difficult. Nature, however, has already devised solutions to many of the challenges faced by materials scientists, and can provide useful insights to materials design. In our group we are inspired by natural systems such as blue mussel glue to make synthetic adhesives that are both self-healing and works under water based on hydrogels and coacervates. In another project, we do crystallization of guanine for use in stimuli-responsive reflector materials inspired by the natural color-changing systems found in animals such as chameleons and copepods.
The individual student project can be tailored towards more or less lab and synthesis work or materials characterization and data analysis.
A central characterization tool in our research is X-ray imaging. As X-rays are characterized by high penetration power and wavelengths at the Angstrom level, they are ideally suited for characterization of extended and mineralized samples across length scales ranging from the atomic to the anatomic depending on the imaging mode. The past decade has carried a massive technical development benefitting the development of these techniques, not only at large scale facilities (synchrotrons), but also in laboratory instruments. This has allowed for extension of classical (absorption-based) computed tomography to computed tomography with contrast from e.g. XRD or XRF. We are heavily involved with the development of these methods as well as writing of software (MultiRef) that can handle the enormous data sets that are generated.