Crosslinked biopolymeric structures are ubiquitous in nature, resulting in many amazing mechanical and physical properties that are difficult to replicate with synthetic materials. This IRG is exploring novel molecular architectures that mimic those found in nature. Two different crosslinked structures in which the molecular architecture of the crosslinks can be systematically controlled have been developed. In one case, the architecture of the crosslink junctions is controlled by using nanoparticles and/or metal coordinating polymers (Figure 1). In the second case, the crosslinking architecture is controlled by manipulating the ionic charges present in hydrophobic and hydrophilic domains of polypeptides. This manipulation, in turn, controls the self-assembly of the polypeptides into hydrogels with controllable properties (Figure 2). These new tunable molecular architectures hold promise in applications such as self-healing filtration systems for water and food purification, new antimicrobial coatings for implants, or cartilage substitutes with high durability and lubrication capacity.
J. Johnson, N. Holten-Andersen, and K. Ribbeck