University California Santa Barbara
How can we learn from nature to build better polymer composites?
Nature is replete with extraordinary materials that can grow, move, respond, and adapt. In this talk I will describe our ongoing efforts to develop advanced polymeric materials, inspired by nature. First, I will describe my group’s efforts to develop ultrastiff, ultratough materials inspired by the byssal materials of marine mussels. These adhesive contacts allow mussels to secure themselves to rocks, wood, metals and other surfaces in the harsh conditions of the intertidal zone. By developing a foundational understanding of the structure-mechanics relationships and processing of the natural system, we can design high-performance materials that are extremely strong without compromising extensibility, as well as macroporous materials with tunable toughness and strength. In the second half of the talk, I will describe new efforts to exploit light as a means of remote control and power. By leveraging the phototransduction pathways of highly-absorbing, negatively photochromic molecules, we can drive the motion of amorphous polymeric materials as well as liquid flows. These innovations enable applications in packaging, connective tissue repair, soft robotics, and optofluidics.
Bio: Megan T. Valentine is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her interdisciplinary research group investigates many aspects of biological and bioinspired materials, with an emphasis on understanding how forces are generated and transmitted in living materials, how these forces control cellular outcomes, and how the extraordinary features of living systems can be captured in manmade materials. This highly interdisciplinary experimental work lies at the intersection of engineering, physics, biology and chemistry, and advances diverse application areas, ranging from marine-inspired materials to mechanobiology to soft robotics.
Megan received her B.S from Lehigh University ('97), M.S. from UPenn ('99) and Ph.D. from Harvard ('03), all in Physics. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford in the Department of Biological Sciences, where she was the recipient of a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface. In 2008, she joined the faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she now serves as the Co-Director of the California NanoSystems Institute, and a co-leader of an IRG on Resilient Multiphase Soft Materials within the UC Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory, an NSF MRSEC. In 2013, she was awarded an NSF CAREER Award for her work on neuron mechanics, and in 2015 was awarded a Fulbright to study adhesion mechanics in Paris, France. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.