Joanna Aizenberg about creating every desired material (21-09-2016)

Material scientist Joanna Aizenberg is an international pioneering in the creation of new, adaptive materials inspired by nature.

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00:00:00 Speaker 1: So what makes it so unique in your eyes, what you are doing with your team?
00:00:06 Speaker 2: The idea is to be open, I think open for looking for interesting solutions in nature and the approach,
00:00:21 probably quite unique still from my group, but I think it becoming more and more popular, is,
00:00:28 we have two directions of how we look at nature.
00:00:32 One is, let's say there's an interesting creature doing something amazing,
00:00:38 and we are trying to learn the- what is happening and maybe apply it.
00:00:46 That's one approach, and apply it maybe to different things.
00:00:50 But even more interesting, it's just emerging now, is that instead of looking for one creature that tells us something,
00:01:00 what if we take lessons from completely different organisms?
00:01:05 They have nothing in common, they have different environments, but one can teach something,
00:01:11 but it's not enough for certain purpose.
00:01:14 Together with yet another organism, you can learn something else,
00:01:18 and combining lessons from completely different organisms that evolve their things for their specific needs,
00:01:27 then to solve a certain problem.
00:01:29 So that's a really interesting approach, is really take small lessons from different, from plants,
00:01:38 from brittle stars because I have research where I combine lessons from this creature with this,
00:01:47 so they have nothing in common. That one taught us something, this one taught us something.
00:01:53 Combining them together, we produce a new technology that would never appear if we wouldn't combine these two lessons.
00:02:01 So the idea of combining different creatures-
00:02:06 Speaker 1: What will [inaudible 00:02:07] combined from the two? So can you explain what did you learn of these two?
00:02:16 Speaker 2: So you probably know who are starfish and sea urchins.
00:02:26 So this is the closest relative of both, so it's also you see his five folds in his ray of the body,
00:02:34 just like a starfish, but it's called brittle star. Its arms are called brittles, it's very fast.
00:02:42 You see it's black, and it's already dead of course, but during the day, it's black and during the night, it is white.
00:02:52 And the way it changes color is by introducing inside the, its skeleton,
00:03:04 black pigment that covers the lens just like some glasses that change color when there's too much light.
00:03:11 This is what this organism does, and makes light reception dynamic depending how much light outside,
00:03:19 so that's the lesson from here. This one has structural color, so this blue is structural color.
00:03:30 Structural color means that it's not chemical color.
00:03:34 It's not coming from pigment, it's coming from arrangement of peaches.
00:03:41 It's coming purely from distances between peaches in this structure.
00:03:47 So depending how close they are, it would be the blue or green, so it has almost nothing to do with the material.
00:03:54 I can get blue color in any material by just making it in their regular array. Now this color is not dynamic.
00:04:03 It's not changing in any way, so we can combine the idea of how liquid here changes color of this organism,
00:04:14 and introduce this liquid as an active element into structures that would make very similar to that butterfly.
00:04:25 Result of that is that we put together new technology where the color can change as a function of infiltration of a
00:04:37 liquid, but then we use this for very interesting applications.
00:04:43 We're looking how that concept was liquid, suddenly changes color in different ways,
00:04:51 and I will probably show you a couple of those things in the lab.
00:04:54 We can use that as sensor, we can use it for encryption because, there's certain messages can be written there,
00:05:08 and you will never see them. We actually have a butterfly with tattoo.
00:05:13 The tattoo is coming out, only one you expose to a liquid and that gives us a way to have hidden messages.
00:05:25 Logos that would appear only when you expose it to right liquid.
00:05:31 So the oral idea of dynamic materials is in this particular case, by combining these strategies,
00:05:38 but we have many more examples of one organism teaches something, and the other one teaches a little bit more,
00:05:46 and together, it's interesting.
00:05:46 Speaker 1: And you apply it to materials in a way?
00:05:49 Speaker 2: Yes, so we're making now, and we're actually making, I actually have a lot of them,
00:05:58 but most of them are in design school because I use them for teaching, but we'll see some of them in my lab,
00:06:06 where you will see it looks exactly like this beautiful blue color, but it's actually material that we make,
00:06:13 but compared to this.
00:06:17 As simple as, imagine a shot glass that has beautiful color, and depending on what you drink,
00:06:28 it will give you different messages that you don't know really existed.
00:06:32 So simple way to make it beautiful, but in fact, we can use it.
00:06:39 In particular, we're working with department of transportation to design it into a sensor for detection of oil quality,
00:06:52 so in North Dakota, they're pulling out a lot of oil. There is no pipe line, and they're transporting it by rail.
00:07:02 And within the last couple of years,
00:07:05 there were a lot of explosions because oil was not properly labeled by what type of oil that is.
00:07:13 So to have a very simple detector that has beautiful color and depending on the quality of oil,
00:07:23 this oil would either infiltrate it or not, and therefore the color will change in certain ways.
00:07:30 As a very simple, you don't need to use fancy equipment, it's almost pregnancy tests or pH paper..
00:07:39 You put it in oil and you know what quality it is in which container you need to pack it so ..
00:07:47 Speaker 1: So you learn from nature, from animals or plants, or organisms?
00:07:53 Speaker 2: Yup.
00:07:54 Speaker 1: You learn from their characteristics or from their, what their, if you go deeper into,
00:07:59 what biologies normally do.
00:08:00 Speaker 2: That's right, so I don't call it by a mimicry, because I'm not mimicking nature, it is by inspired science.
00:08:10 So I use it as an inspiration, and things that I make are not necessarily even used the same way nature used it,
00:08:18 often for completely different application.
00:08:21 It's just certain design principles that nature has evolved,
00:08:27 become very interesting approaches that one can use for smart materials design.
00:08:33 So it is not mimicking nature, it is taking lessons inspired by nature, and think where we can use these beyond,
00:08:44 well beyond what nature is doing.
00:08:48 And also, we can't, at this moment, mimic the entire complexity of natural system, and probably I don't want to.
00:08:57 So the butterfly and this sea urchins, they need to multiply, they need to do all kinds of things.
00:09:06 If I'm making a device, let's say, to detect quality of oil, I don't need all of these features.
00:09:13 So being able to extract from nature.
00:09:16 So to take these principles, and simplify them sometimes,
00:09:23 or reformulate them in such a way that it can be used somewhere else. This is what we actually do.
00:09:30 Speaker 1: In a way, evolution already chose the best way of having organisms.
00:09:41 Speaker 2: I may not agree with that, I'm not sure that evolution always makes the best choice.
00:09:51 In a sense that there is always local pressures, local environmental conditions and often,
00:10:03 nature has the materials stuck with certain choices that is very expensive to change.
00:10:13 And then, within that range, so I would say that, my logical solutions are often sub-optimal. Not optimal.
00:10:21 We have our ideas, why? In particular, published in a number of papers.
00:10:30 So if we look, we got this paper that was actually describing how this organism changes color, but it's a skeleton,
00:10:40 so nature often does something we do not do yet, which is designing one material for multiple purposes.
00:10:48 So, often natural design might not be best for each of the purposes it has to serve,
00:10:58 but it does it very well for multiple things.
00:11:01 For example, if I design lenses, and these are lenses on top of a skeleton,
00:11:06 maybe I'll design lenses in a different way, and better than these in a different material,
00:11:12 but the same material is supposed to be a skeleton.
00:11:16 So it's not just optically perfect, it has to be structurally perfect.
00:11:22 So neither of them are probably perfect, but to think about one material that can do both things well enough,
00:11:30 then evolution finds the best solution for that.
00:11:34 And sometimes we'll look at this optimization, there are so many parameters you need to optimize for,
00:11:41 maybe there are some that we don't even know about, and then what we can say, flaws of evolution.
00:11:49 It's not perfect, it could be done better. Maybe not, because the material is supposed to do many other things.
00:11:57 For example, multiply, dissolve at certain moment, and then our regular approaches of why not to make it out glass,
00:12:07 why not to make it out of metal, will not be applicable, and therefore not used in nature.
00:12:14 So multi-functionality is a very interesting approach.
00:12:20 Speaker 1: So what you are doing is creating next nature in a way.
00:12:26 Speaker 2: I don't know, but I would say that.
00:12:30 I would just say that maybe there are creatures that already have these features,
00:12:36 but what we are trying to do is combine unrelated lessons from different organisms together to solve an interesting
00:12:48 societal problem,
00:12:49 some interesting technical problem to create a new material that can do something that our current materials can't do.
00:12:59 So it is not next nature, but I would say it's next generation of advanced materials.
00:13:07 Materials that respond to environment, so why can't we have our buildings that either breathe,
00:13:16 or shut the wettability depending whether it's the rain outside or not.
00:13:26 Why can't we have our entire windows that would, in a smart way, which means in response to temperature outside,
00:13:39 to light outside, change the performance to let the light through or not.
00:13:44 There is so many things that if we consider general lessons from nature that we haven't yet, understood very well,
00:13:58 which is responsiveness, which is adaptive nature and ability to reconfigure, adjust.
00:14:07 If we would have materials of that kind, that would be a really interesting move for technology.
00:14:16 Speaker 1: What's the thing where you are now the most proud of if you apply to material?
00:14:20 Speaker 2: That's a tough question.
00:14:25 I have a very big group, and in a way, each of these projects is my baby,
00:14:31 so you don't ask which baby you don't like most out of your kids.
00:14:38 Each of them, in some ways, satisfies different parts of what is important to me.
00:14:47 If you would ask what is the most interesting science, it's one part of that.
00:14:54 I don't even often, in this case, as question, is it going to be useful, is just to uncover interesting mechanisms
00:15:06 and ideas and what nature does in interesting ways.
00:15:10 And there are a couple of things where we are proud of in this direction.
00:15:16 For example, to understand the structure of this plant.
00:15:21 So to understand that the organism was able to create a fiber-optical network, and a beautiful skeleton of glass,
00:15:31 and fully explain how this is structurally, and from materials point of view, is design and is architecture.
00:15:43 That's, I'm proud of. I also like, in this direction, ability to grow pretty much any crystal I want.
00:15:52 We may look at some of them in the microscope later on just to grow flowers that are just size of human hair
00:16:04 or smaller that, but in any shape or form.
00:16:09 So that to understand them, the lengths, I am so well that we can do it, so I am very proud of that part.
00:16:16 Now the other side though, is that is we do not just science purpose, but coming not from science
00:16:28 and then thinking where one can use it, but to do it the other way around, starting with a problem
00:16:34 and think how one can solve it.
00:16:36 So these are more technology or application oriented studies and there, and the ones that I'm most proud of, probably,
00:16:48 are the two developments that have happened in my group in the last five, six years. And these are two technologies.
00:17:00 One is based on inspiration coming from pitcher plant where we really developed completely new family of materials that
00:17:14 can be designed in a very simple way at this moment.
00:17:17 We can make it in metal, polymer and glass, and any material but the material that would repel, what you want to repel,
00:17:30 it would repel ice, it would repel barnacles and mussels.
00:17:33 It would repel blood, it would repel bacteria, and to create the family of [inaudible 00:17:41] materials.
00:17:43 Very proud of this work, and I'm very proud of work of where we can use self-assembled materials and structural color,
00:17:55 actually, as sensors, as a way to detect and reveal how materials are exposed to environment,
00:18:04 so these are two that are related to applications there.
00:18:11 The overall idea for that came from, we want to solve a problem, of let's say, fouling.
00:18:18 What should we do, which organism should we look at to help us do it.
00:18:23 So not from the organisms to application, but rather from application to organisms and natural system that can help.
00:18:33 Speaker 1: And when you look at it, we can create- there is an endless future of possibilities in your science.
00:18:48 It's like, a whole new world's opening by looking at biology in this way,
00:18:54 and then thinking about characteristics that can be used in other materials.
00:19:00 Speaker 2: I agree. The, I hope that there would be more and more studies of this kind.
00:19:06 It's just a good example of that is our recent paper, actually published this year in nature,
00:19:14 was on making the most efficient ethics changes, the most efficient water collection systems,
00:19:26 and the way we designed it was combining lessons from three different natural systems,
00:19:34 where we were looking on how to optimize three parameters, all of them orthogonal to each other, very different,
00:19:44 and combining these three organisms gave us the best solution.
00:19:49 Nothing in technology works as well as that, so we combine lessons from desert beetle, from cactus
00:19:59 and from pitcher plant and we're able to put together something interesting that neither of them alone will teach us.
00:20:09 Now how many of these capabilities? I'm sure it's endless.
00:20:12 There's so many organisms,
00:20:14 and there are so many things about organisms that nobody has studied yet in endless combination of something that
00:20:24 nature evolved here, because it was important for this organism,
00:20:28 and somewhere else because it was important for another organism, together it gives unusual,
00:20:36 unexpected solution that nobody can easily come up with that concept,
00:20:42 so it's not generally obvious. We are not trying to go and to try to do the obvious science, it's uneven,
00:20:56 untraditional, unorthodox combinations that we're trying to do.
00:21:02 Speaker 1: And where did it all start for you?
00:21:06 When did your passion for looking at nature, looking at it, where did it start?
00:21:14 Speaker 2: I can't even remember, I think it was always there.
00:21:19 I guess in some ways, there's a little bit of unpleasant beginning of all that when I was a child,
00:21:33 when I was two years old.
00:21:35 It all started when I went to kindergarten, and my nurse in the kindergarten by mistake,
00:21:49 gave me triple dose of vaccine for anti-polio vaccine, at that time, vaccine was alive
00:21:57 and I actually was paralyzed for a number of years.
00:22:10 So when I was paralyzed, I was in the sanatorium, on the black sea and was exposed to shells, to waves,
00:22:22 to black sea at that time.
00:22:25 They were unpleasant times, but at the same time, it was the time when all the kids were running around and playing
00:22:35 and I was in a chair and that was the beginning of looking, observing nature and loving it, really.
00:22:46 Then in school, I guess that, so I was, winner of all the mathematical Olympias,
00:22:55 so science was always something I wanted to do.
00:23:01 It was never a question of which science, but I guess that my parents, who were very influential for me,
00:23:14 we constantly had discussions and some fights between them, whether I would follow my dad's steps or my mom's steps,
00:23:24 and I decided to combine both.
00:23:28 My mom was a medical doctor, specifically interested in infectious diseases,
00:23:34 and I do now a lot of work in making materials from medical devices that prevent infections that prevent bacteria to
00:23:46 form, and my dad is a structural engineers.
00:23:51 He always wanted me to be an engineer, and this combination is actually really interesting, and I guess that's,
00:24:00 as I mentioned, I can track it back a time when I was three or four years old.
00:24:10 Speaker 1: Yeah, and then looking at the shells when you were in this chair,
00:24:15 in what way- that was the only thing you could, do of course. You could see the sea, you could smell the sea.
00:24:22 Speaker 2: That's right. I'm sorry.
00:24:25 What always interested me, and it's something that probably, I keep doing it 'til now, is pattern information.
00:24:39 It's not only seashells, let's say, but the, how waves leave interesting signs on the sand.
00:24:50 So these rhombii in the patterns left behind by the waves on the sand was my obsession for a very long time.
00:25:02 So since I was most interested in mathematics as a student in school,
00:25:11 I actually thought that I would be applied mathematician, but then I was convinced that by doing physical chemistry,
00:25:21 I could still do a lot of mathematics, but I can also do physics, chemistry, and biology,
00:25:28 and it was quite a convincing augment to get to the Moscow university to the chemistry department.
00:25:40 So it's patterned information, how different features form and many things in my research, in particular,
00:25:51 patterns in these photonic crystals, or patterns on this sponge, if you see, probably,
00:25:59 that the patterns on this sponge are extremely-
00:26:02 Speaker 1: Can you get it a bit closer for the camera?
00:26:03 Speaker 2: So if you look at that, it's not living anymore, but it's a natural sponge, it's fully, this skeleton of it,
00:26:16 it's fully made of glass, just like we make our buildings and our windows, but I hope, you see,
00:26:26 that in addition to just beautiful glass architecture, it is still irregular.
00:26:32 It has something like a chessboard structure, so there's one window and another one is closed, and it's, again,
00:26:43 pattern.
00:26:44 I was interested when I started to look at that, how this symmetry, that can arise from a living organism,
00:26:55 how can it form a skeleton with such an incredible regularity.
00:27:01 If you look here, there are also diagonal elements running through the sponge,
00:27:08 and they're running exactly every four square. Every four square.
00:27:13 Every second square, it has a dark square, so there's an incredible regularity, so the origin of these features,
00:27:25 the origin of this order, is all within the, our status of how patterns, how interesting assembly works.
00:27:40 Speaker 1: And what did you do with the information you got from this sponge? What did you apply with it?
00:27:47 Did it allure you or what?
00:27:49 Speaker 2: So this is, there's a couple of things that we are trying to do, hopefully, is to,
00:28:02 what we do is we simplify this sponge design, so these are 3D printed,
00:28:03 and this one has all the structural elements this sponge has. This one has a little bit less, this one.
00:28:13 So we make different types of this structure to understand why nature ended up with this specific architecture to make
00:28:25 the most mechanically strong material.
00:28:30 So the lessons that we learn from that is how to make most mechanically strong glass that one can arrange from very
00:28:42 small scale to very large scale.
00:28:44 So then this sponge, in fact, I gave couple of lectures describing that if you look at this from every level,
00:28:57 I can probably teach entire class of civil engineering, and everything we use in the design, laminated materials
00:29:16 or fiber-enforced materials or cemented structures, everything.
00:29:23 Every element that we use now is actually already used by this sponge. So it's a lot of interesting things.
00:29:30 Whether it's additional features, in particular, hierarchy, how nature makes it from mammoth scale,
00:29:37 up to this macroscopic scale to avoid corns that the sponge has in the sea.
00:29:45 So there is a lot of interesting lessons, but again, there's lesson in multi-functionality.
00:29:53 This is a skeleton, but it's also, in our opinion, designed to control and optimize three functions, at least.
00:30:05 Which is, has to be strong, because it's skeleton,
00:30:08 but it also- these are optical fibers that couple light into this structure,
00:30:18 most of them I already removed from my research.
00:30:21 So the structure has to act as a beacon in the sea, so how one can use glass to make optical fibers
00:30:30 and also skeletons out of glass in natural conditions, not the two-thousand degree sea as we deal with glass,
00:30:40 but in addition to that, sponge is a primitive organism, sponges breath
00:30:47 and feed by pumping seawater through this openings.
00:30:55 All these openings in its structure is for pumping seawater, then organic particles that are coming through this body,
00:31:08 are uptaken and [inaudible 00:31:10] by this primitive, it's not even a- it's a multicellular organism,
00:31:16 but it doesn't have organs, it's nothing, it's really primitive.
00:31:20 However, it's able and combining optical properties, mechanical properties, and what we believe, the design,
00:31:29 with this nice structure of opening one pore, closing another one,
00:31:36 is heading served function to optimize fluidics so that it doesn't need to use too much energy to pump water through
00:31:47 this structure so that some windows are open more than others.
00:31:52 And in addition to that, I don't know how much you could see, but there are two white things inside,
00:32:00 you can probably maybe can get it out, maybe.
00:32:07 That's very sticky, so very difficult to get it out, maybe now you can see them better.
00:32:13 This is part of the claw of a shrimp that lives inside the sponge. Symbiotically with the sponge,
00:32:23 so we learn a lot about natural symbiotic life, of how to make mechanically strong materials, and optical fibers,
00:32:35 and it's all designed for these shrimp to be protected from environments where nobody can catch them and eat them,
00:32:47 but for shrimp to be able to eat, needs food, so how would the shrimp get the food?
00:32:55 The optical fibers provide enough illumination so everything is attracted to light.
00:33:02 I would come of that, there's always feast.
00:33:07 So they have more than enough food, and the products of their life cycle,
00:33:12 so all their excrements are used by sponge for its own feeding, so really interesting ideas.
00:33:23 However, what if and we are thinking about it, but I'll know whether it would be, after all, the outcome of that,
00:33:34 but what if we look at that and we think about a future building.
00:33:41 So this building, this 3d printed version, has every structural element that this sponge has.
00:33:50 This sponge is also a building because shrimp lives inside.
00:33:54 But what if we would actually use the idea of energy saving ideas, the sponge has already evolved,
00:34:03 which is in this case, to pump water through the system, but in this case,
00:34:10 it could be a building where size of the openings of some of the windows would be opened for airflow for wind so that
00:34:21 you could have the most efficient energy balance of the building, but at the same time, mechanically,
00:34:29 it would have all of these diagonal elements, you can see the end, one open, one closed, so that mechanically,
00:34:36 it's very strong, but it's actually, on top of that, aesthetically very pleasing.
00:34:42 What if this building, this is lesson from sponge,
00:34:47 but what if this building would also have lessons that we can take from butterflies
00:34:55 and this building will change color due to the liquid coming through certain places and during rain,
00:35:07 it would reveal certain messages and you would see a dynamic color change as natural conditions change.
00:35:16 Or the windows, yet another project that we like,
00:35:20 would have this ability to control the light intensity so we really think about as not anywhere close yet,
00:35:30 but we think about building, that's why I'm probably coughing, because it's so far away,
00:35:44 but it's difficult to imagine that we're anywhere close,
00:35:47 but what if our future would be materials that combine smart solutions from completely different organisms,
00:35:56 and that gives us environments, materials,
00:35:59 and entire architecture that is capable of most efficient way control airflow, to control resistance of ice formation,
00:36:15 to control optical properties, reconfigure, change depending on which side it is.
00:36:26 Depending on what part of the world this building is going to be built in.
00:36:34 So that's, if I were to dream big, this is what I hope we can make this building out of interesting puzzles
00:36:46 and interesting ideas that nature has created and nature has evolved and probably waiting for us to uncover.
00:36:56 Speaker 1: When did you discover this sponge?
00:36:59 Speaker 2: Sponge, um-
00:37:00 Speaker 1: How did you find it?
00:37:02 Speaker 2: So, it's, I was very interested in sponges long time ago
00:37:11 when I was a student in the Weizmann Institute. Should I- where do you want me to hold it?
00:37:22 Speaker 3: You can come as close as you want to the camera, it's nice for me. Yup, okay.
00:37:28 Speaker 2: Okay.
00:37:29 Speaker 1: So the glass fiber, how does that work?
00:37:31 Speaker 2: So this sponge, when it's alive, it's coated with a thin layer of brownish cells,
00:37:39 but all these windows are actually open for bumping water through it, but it's attached to ocean floor right here,
00:37:49 what is called holdfast apparatus, but it has multiple function.
00:37:55 So not only holds it inside the floor, but at the end of each of these fibers, so these are optical fibers.
00:38:04 There's a crown of optical fibers surrounding this bunch, just this crown is,
00:38:11 has the wavelengths of light associated with the bioluminescent material that lives in the ocean floor,
00:38:23 and the light produced by this bacteria is coupled into these fibers
00:38:29 and it shines really similar to these fiber-optical lens.
00:38:34 Speaker 1: Can you take it, 'cause I can't go there with my camera.
00:38:39 Speaker 2: A lot coming from bacterias, coupled to these lenses, and the end of each of these, of this fiber,
00:38:48 there is a lens for efficient coupling of light, and it shines very similar to these optical fibers that we all know
00:39:00 and we think that we invented fiberoptics just 60 years ago or so, but in fact,
00:39:09 this is one of the oldest organisms that exist and they knew how to make fiber-optical things back then,
00:39:17 so it's really the same principle, is the structure of these fibers would have a higher index core
00:39:28 and lower index cladding, and the signal goes through the center of the fiber and shines at the end.
00:39:35 It actually shines many places, because it actually shines almost like Christmas tree,
00:39:42 because it has major point where light coming off is on the tip that some of these fibers have branches,.
00:39:49 and these also highlight it due to the out-coupling of light in these [rotations 00:39:56]
00:39:56 Speaker 1: 'Cause it's very deep.
00:39:58 Speaker 2: It's deeper in the ocean, there is no sunlight there,
00:40:01 so the only light that is coming are from the ocean floor.
00:40:07 Now maybe you could see, I hope you could see, one second, there are two, here's inside this sponge,
00:40:16 these two wide things. If you see them, if you can focus on them, or I can try to wiggle them around.
00:40:28 These are claws of the shrimp that lives inside.
00:40:35 So one may say that, compared to shrimp that is freely swimming, it is a disadvantage because they cannot swim
00:40:45 and find food, but it's actually an advantage.
00:40:50 First advantage is pretty much nothing can crunch this extremely strong material, so the mechanic will protect it.
00:40:58 There is no enemies, really, for the shrimp. They may want to, but they cannot crash the glass.
00:41:10 Now food comes from the fact that this is, as a fiber-optical lamp, it's enough light in this area,
00:41:22 in the ocean so that anything living is always attracted to light,
00:41:28 and the density of food that the shrimp can eat is pretty high, and in this way,
00:41:38 it is a nice combination of symbiotic life between bioluminescent material, sponge, and the shrimp that lives inside
00:41:52 and none of them alone would be able to survive especially in the conditions where there is almost no light
00:42:03 and food is really depleted as you go deeper and deeper in the ocean,
00:42:10 but together it produces a very interesting system.
00:42:14 So that's how we think about new materials, new designs of combining things together
00:42:23 and thinking how different organisms can teach us something that current materials or current devices don't use yet..
00:42:34 Just because it's, you see how- [inaudible 00:42:40]
00:42:38 I wouldn't recommend fetching this to you up close because it would immediately attack.
00:42:50 It's amazing, it's another feature, it has an incredible ability better than velcro to attach anything.
00:43:00 Speaker 1: So could you, you have three labs.
00:43:06 Speaker 2: Yes. I have one lab in three different locations.
00:43:12 Speaker 1: Okay, and when you describe the three different locations, what are the differences?
00:43:18 Speaker 2: So the difference really, I would still probably prefer everything to be in one location,
00:43:28 so that people talk to shells, that even a lot, we almost have a lot of activities together.
00:43:35 In some ways, it's divided by topics, maybe.
00:43:43 Not many topics, but generally speaking, I would say in my lab, the lab that is here in the engineering building,
00:43:57 there's a lot of projects that are related to dynamic materials to self-assembly to making colorful materials,
00:44:07 responsive materials, and it has a lot of work with more than pigments, optical devices, and so on.
00:44:20 It's one lab, thinking about the ways one can, for example, just another paper that was on the cover of a journal,
00:44:34 How to Make Materials Assemble, absolutely interesting patterns.
00:44:40 So that is in one lab, and it's very generally described, I would say, as self-assembly and dynamic response materials,
00:44:52 a lot of synthesis is done in this lab.
00:44:54 My, another lab is doing a lot of research in filing materials, but specifically, more biological materials,
00:45:08 so using pitcher plant as an inspiration to make materials that repel ice,
00:45:15 materials that can be used in heat exchanges, prevent fouling, generally, but it's a lot of studies of what is it,
00:45:28 why they people like that, what would be the fundamental science and physical
00:45:33 and chemical principles to understand which one should do, talk to my stem, where does performance come from,
00:45:44 and it's really fluidics and materials' characterization related to wetting phenomenon.
00:45:56 Will these surfaces, will these structures that may be wet by different media.
00:46:05 And the third lab is somewhat related to second, but it's more on biological fouling.
00:46:15 So not necessarily fouling, it would be a wrong thing to say fouling. I would say by a, NANA interfaces.
00:46:24 So in some cases, we want to repel things, for example, we want to repel bacteria, we want to repel mussels
00:46:37 and barnacles from ships in the ocean, but in other cases,
00:46:42 it could be to create materials on which we can harvest algae for [anaegic 00:46:48] production, but it's again,
00:46:50 there's a lot of questions one can ask.
00:46:54 One you need to harvest them so they feel comfortable,
00:46:57 but then you need to have ways to release them from the structures and surfaces that are used for their production,
00:47:07 so the third lab is mostly related to growing bacterial cultures, growing algae in the laboratory solutions,
00:47:16 laboratory conditions, and identifying the structure, how they interact with materials that we make
00:47:26 and to really come up with recipes for different applications.
00:47:35 So one can say that we have a general approach that we learned from the pitcher plant.
00:47:43 It's what's called platform technology.
00:47:47 I's really, there are parts of that that can be combined in different ways,
00:47:54 depending whether you want to do it on glass or on metal, and depending whether you want to repel marine things,
00:48:02 we want to repel ice so one can use it as a system design with different components depending what you want to do
00:48:11 and we study a lot, how different combinations of materials together give the best outcome for specific target..
00:48:22 Speaker 1: It's so strange that we, you, or other scientists .. [inaudible 00:48:29]
00:48:28 Speaker 2: Oh my god, you are very sensitive.
00:48:31 Speaker 3: His microphone is sensitive. I'm less sensitive.
00:48:43 Speaker 2: Well, that's interesting, a cough, but it's, a lot of it's a real endurement. There are cars.
00:48:47 Speaker 1: But it's so strange, when you look for metal, that metal and corrosion.
00:48:51 Speaker 2: There's some things, obviously. Now I'm becoming sensitive.
00:48:56 Speaker 3: We're almost done here. That's good, that's good.
00:48:59 Speaker 1: They're like metal and corrosion which we accepted for tens of, hundreds of years or more,
00:49:04 that you've found this material that you could prove only that it changes.
00:49:17 It's so strange that now we are finding these and not earlier.
00:49:19 Speaker 2: That's true, but I think that we will make a lot of interesting, we as a science in general,
00:49:27 and not talking about my lab only.
00:49:30 If we open our eyes and think in the very non-traditional terms about what we can learn from nature,
00:49:38 we can suddenly realize there are many interesting solutions that we have no idea exist,
00:49:44 and many of them in fact are extremely simple.
00:49:48 In particular, the pitcher plant idea is very simple, but it is counter-intuitive, so if we talk about it and
00:49:59 when I'm trying to explain the system, when I say it's counter-intuitive,
00:50:07 because everything is against the rules that are commonly used in current technologies and well-established rules.
00:50:18 For example, if we think about how to make a material that has as little friction as possible, so the way we do it now,
00:50:33 we polish everything.
00:50:34 We polish so that the surface has a minimum number of defects, because every defects produces friction.
00:50:44 So if we talk about pipes, everything is polished, because otherwise they would create turbulence
00:50:51 when we transport oil or water.
00:50:55 If anywhere else, if we think about the materials that need to get to lowest friction as possible,
00:51:05 we need to get rid of roughness.
00:51:07 Now what pitcher plant is doing is that it actually creates an extremely rough surface.
00:51:16 It is extremely structured surface, which by all laws of physics,
00:51:21 is supposed to be extremely bad if you wanted to produce friction for your material.
00:51:31 However, it is high friction when it's dry, so that ants
00:51:38 or insects are capable of moving around on the surface of this pitcher plant, on a dry day,
00:51:48 being hap- having no idea what may happen when there is rain, but what happens
00:51:54 when there is rain is that this structured surface picks up water because it's hydrophilic, it likes water,
00:52:04 and by picking up water, it creates layer over layer of a liquid that is trapped inside the structure solid.
00:52:16 The outcome of that that you have a structured material, a rough material, but the roughness has a second role.
00:52:26 Its role is to hold water, and at the end, what insects would experience is not the rough surface,
00:52:38 you use rough surface to create ultra smooth surface because your final outcome is the surface of water,
00:52:48 and liquid has no defects.
00:52:51 So that's why I'm saying it's counterintuitive, because we use roughness to get rid of roughness in a way,
00:52:59 and also we use liquid as a material. There is not that many places where liquid can be considered as a material.
00:53:09 It could be used, let's say in 3d printing or anywhere else, to make something out of it,
00:53:18 but the final outcome is a solid. So materials are solids. In this case, liquid is part of it.
00:53:30 Together with solid, it makes a new concept. Liquid alone doesn't do it, solid alone doesn't do it.
00:53:40 But combining these together gives an interesting outcome
00:53:44 and that's why I'm saying it's counterintuitive because we use roughness to get rid of roughness,
00:53:50 and we use liquids stored in a way inside structured surfaces that hold it nicely inside to take advantage of liquids
00:54:03 that otherwise cannot be shaped, cannot, they won't run away.
00:54:08 But now they're inside your material, and they lend the material with its properties.
00:54:16 So this is brittle star, used to have five arms, I just removed one arm for analysis.
00:54:24 So it changes color, not all brittle stars do that but this species does, and during the day it's black.
00:54:32 And the reason it's black during the day is that it has lenses on its surface that regulate the light intensity
00:54:43 depending how much light outside and the receptors under the lens can work only in certain range.
00:54:52 So when it's too bright, they cover the lens with a black pigment
00:54:58 and therefore the entire organism changes color to black, and at night, when actually they are active species,
00:55:05 they are doing everything at night, when it's not enough light, they withdraw the pigment back into the structure,
00:55:16 opening the lenses for more efficient collection of light,
00:55:20 so the color change here is due to the dynamic nature of bringing a liquid in, in this case, pigment,
00:55:29 and then withdrawing it back.
00:55:31 So the idea of bringing liquids in into materials is now a very common theme in many of my projects
00:55:40 and some of them are completely unrelated but it's thinking about liquids in and on materials.
00:55:49 Speaker 1: One question about that brittle fish- why is it during the day, why black and not white, I should say.
00:55:57 Speaker 2: So it's not mimicry, it's not mimicking the environment, and in fact, this is what the beginning,
00:56:07 biological literature was using this as another example of mimicking the environment
00:56:13 and changing the color accordingly. It's actually opposite of what you would expect, and that was a big mistake.
00:56:21 That was what attracted me to this topic, is it's not hiding.
00:56:27 Because it's just being even better seen during the day, and even more so during the night.
00:56:32 The function here is to optimize light collection and therefore during night, you want to get rid of pigment,
00:56:42 and during the day, you want to screen your lenses from excessive light.
00:56:48 So it's not mimicking the color of the environment, it's optimizing its technology, which is in this case,
00:56:57 dynamic lenses.
00:56:57 Speaker 1: That's exactly what you are doing, and biologists is not [inaudible 00:57:02]
00:57:02 Speaker 2: That's correct, so biologists always look for common, they are comfortable, terminology that they used to,
00:57:11 suddenly to tell the story, but no, the entire color change has a completely different function,
00:57:18 and it's to optimize and improve the performance of optical elements, and it's optics, it's not on the skeleton,
00:57:26 and overall thinking that skeleton can also be an optical element is really interesting idea.
00:57:36 Think about buildings that, of course, mechanically strong,
00:57:42 but also have built-in optical structure so the same construction is actually its own optical element that collects
00:57:52 light or reflects light, so it's pretty interesting.
00:57:58 Speaker 1: Yeah.
00:57:58 Sort of the difference between you and a biologist is that when you look at the animals and the organisms,
00:58:04 you look at the characteristics or the functions?
00:58:09 Speaker 2: I say I look more for, if I may say, high-tech properties.
00:58:18 If it's, I'm less interested,
00:58:23 although it's extremely important to understand what are the specific cellular mechanisms that are involved in making
00:58:32 the specific biological structures or what is the biological cell or biology or proteins
00:58:39 or polysaccharides that are involved in these functions. I am more interested in technology.
00:58:48 I'm more interested in devices that became an outcome of the evolution that performed high-tech function,
00:58:59 so I'm interested in mechanics, I'm interested in optics, and I'm interest- but optics beyond eyes.
00:59:07 We're not all about our eyes because we need to know about it, but other interesting optical solutions,
00:59:14 and I'm looking for magnetic structures in nature, how nature makes magnetic materials that are different from us,
00:59:21 so it's really, I would say technical characteristics of biological materials.
00:59:28 Speaker 1: When you look in near future, where are we humans with our technological brain
00:59:35 and technological possibility, where are we going to?
00:59:39 Speaker 2: That's a tough question.
00:59:43 I'm not sure I can say where we're going, I can tell you what I feel would be very important
00:59:50 and what I feel really interesting and which area would be to create technologies,
01:00:00 materials that have the ability to self-assemble, self-assemble,
01:00:05 it uses environment as a trigger for behavioral changes, not to overuse energies,
01:00:17 every time everything is run by hinges, by chain you switch on and off, they may have and this is what organisms do
01:00:26 and I hope the future might be,
01:00:29 to create a range of interesting materials that know how to switch behavior from letting sun in or not, from being,
01:00:43 from accepting water to repelling water. Because in some cases, one is too dry, you really want the water to come in.
01:00:53 You want the building to breathe, but when it's extremely wet, and there's rain every day,
01:00:59 you actually want to repel it,
01:01:01 so how can one create the same material that will change its own function in response to what happens outside?
01:01:09 I think this is the future, it might take on the future.
01:01:13 Speaker 1: Our program is cool to the mind of the universe,
01:01:16 the idea that it's our barriers in accessibility to knowledge are going down through the internet where you're born
01:01:27 and you can learn everything about quantum mechanics.
01:01:29 What do you think about that, have we somehow created cognosphere around our biosphere?
01:01:34 Speaker 2: That's a difficult question.
01:01:41 I watch my grandson, he's almost six years old, but even when he was two,
01:01:50 he was already trying to look on the cellphone and he knew how to move things around and that you,
01:01:57 and he at certain moment, he came to our TV and was trying to open window on the TV and TV was,
01:02:04 he was so surprised that it's not doing it, so there are problems,
01:02:10 maybe with the fact that you don't even need to learn anything, you can have access to any information,
01:02:18 any moment you want it.
01:02:20 However, at the same time, I still hope that there is something that these days, is easier to do than before,
01:02:33 and I hope that we will benefit from that and this is multidisciplinarity, in a way.
01:02:44 So I'm physical chemist by training.
01:02:48 Not an engineer, I'm not a biologist, I'm not a medical doctor, so then I'm a physical chemist.
01:02:55 However, I do a lot of physics, math, architecture and biology and medicine research.
01:03:05 Why that is possible,
01:03:07 is that I feel that none of these disciplines alone are capable of addressing tomorrow's questions adequately,
01:03:19 or have the tools to do it in the most efficient way.
01:03:25 So I feel that when I combine in my group, I try to bring mathematicians, physicists, chemists, medical doctors
01:03:40 and designers together, the goal for that is to think about the way these people would address science in unusual ways.
01:03:51 Just to give you a very simple demonstration of that,
01:03:57 if one wants to describe why this butterfly has these beautiful colors, actually, you pretty much need to know optics.
01:04:09 Physics and optics alone will describe what is happening for this butterfly.
01:04:16 However, all our technological changes, all the improvements that we had, were due to the fact that- okay,
01:04:25 we understand optics.
01:04:26 But what if I now use my chemistry knowledge and I encrypt chemical information inside this structure?
01:04:37 What if now, this optical device would have different chemistries in different locations.
01:04:44 So without chemistry, pretty much anything that we've done with this material, would be absolutely impossible.
01:04:51 Suddenly, chemistry gave a nice spread of applications and possibilities that optics, physics alone couldn't do.
01:05:01 Chemistry alone also couldn't do it, so chemistry with physics, with optics, gave an interesting outcome,
01:05:09 but then yet another area, having a fluid mechanicist in my group,
01:05:17 brought the ideas of how liquids would infiltrate these structures, can move around in interesting ways,
01:05:27 and in this way to create interesting unusual changes in color in response to environment, so in my opinion,
01:05:39 it's very important for kids, for our future, still have very clearly depth in some traditional disciplines.
01:05:52 I would, if I were now to have a high school student choosing what to do, I would say,
01:06:02 begin with choosing one discipline that you will learn very deeply as your first degree.
01:06:10 But then, especially for those who are interested in science and will stay in science, I as a PhD, work
01:06:18 or I would then create teams of different backgrounds coming together
01:06:24 and learning something from another community that you alone wouldn't know otherwise,
01:06:29 so this bringing together expertise, is, I think, the future, and I hope that we will see more and more papers
01:06:42 and technologies that were a clear outcome of multiple disciplines contributing to the aural design.
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