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"Stealing from Nature: Bioinspired Materials of the Future"

Materials chemist Joanna Aizenberg looks at a deep sea sponge and envisions a green, illuminated skyscraper that harvests energy from the wind. In her eyes, the brittle star’s intricate skeleton becomes a rooftop designed to collect light yet withstand the abuses of wild storms. Hairy bacteria and carnivorous plants trigger ideas for smart clothes that maintain a constant temperature, medical tubing that prevents blood clotting, and tents that adapt to the weather. In this lecture, Dr. Aizenberg will lead us from the ocean and the forest to the lab and beyond – and reveal how she steals from the microscale artistry of even the lowliest life forms to invent unprecedented materials that can reshape our future.

Watch the lecture on-demand

Speaker Bio

Joanna Aizenberg pursues a broad range of research interests that include biomineralization, biomimetics, self-assembly, crystal engineering, surface chemistry, nanofabrication, biomaterials, biomechanics and biooptics.

She received the B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1981, the M.S. degree in Physical Chemistry in 1984 from Moscow State University, and the Ph.D. degree in Structural Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1996. She then went to Harvard University where she did postdoctoral research with George Whitesides on micro/nanofabrication and near-field optics.

In 1998 Aizenberg joined Bell Labs as a member of the Technical Staff where she has made several pioneering contributions including developing new biomimetic approaches for the synthesis of ordered mineral films with highly controlled shapes and orientations, and discovering unique optical systems formed by organisms (microlenses and optical fibers) that outshine technological analogs, and characterized the associated organic molecules. In 2007 Aizenberg joined the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Professor Aizenberg's research is aimed at understanding some of the basic principles of biomineralization and the economy with which biology solves complex problems in the design of functional inorganic materials. She then uses biological principles as guidance in developing new, bio-inspired synthetic routes and nanofabrication strategies that would lead to advanced materials and devices. Aizenberg is one of the pioneers of this rapidly developing field of biomimetic inorganic materials synthesis.

Article topics: MconneX , Materials Science