Toward Adaptive Nanotechnology
The ASRC Nanoscience Initiative is led by Dr. Rein Ulijn, a pioneer in an area of nanoscience that focuses on creating materials and systems that have unique adaptive properties inspired by biology but are much simpler.
The Initiative will be distinctive in its focus on a “systems” approach to nanoscience. Complex collections of interacting components, organized into a functional whole, are typically found in ecological and biological contexts and are at the heart of scientific challenges with critical societal impact. These systems are characterized by the ability to adapt and respond to new situations. At the molecular level, systems of interacting molecules can similarly give rise to adaptive behavior. This opens up opportunities to create materials with properties that are difficult to achieve using traditional approaches such as morphological and functional adaptiveness, self-repair, replication, motility and, ultimately, evolution in response to environmental changes.
Thus, it is the Nanoscience Initiative’s vision to develop new molecular technologies that mimic the adaptive properties of living systems and are accessible to experimental scientists and may be exploited in technological and biomedical applications. We believe that the development of adaptive molecular technologies provides a paradigm shift in the way we can measure, influence and ultimately direct complex molecular ecosystems, such as those found in biology. The ability to influence systems in a truly adaptive manner will have tremendous opportunities for the development of new disruptive technologies. By taking into account many variables, and responding in a multitude of ways, there are exciting prospects for advances in the treatment of disease, development of new adaptive personal health care products and smarter manufacturing processes.
But where do we start? Biology is an excellent source of inspiration for adaptive technology development. However, these biological solutions are composed of highly complex components and may not provide realistic technological solutions. Therefore, it is the aim of the ASRC Nanoscience Initiative to mimic the fundamental principles that biology uses for adaption, but with components that are much simpler.
This is a new direction for chemical nanoscience that will require a new framework of experimental methodologies for measurement and theoretical treatment. It is a challenging arena, but one with high stakes: Adaptive technologies will enable systems, inspired by biology, that respond to unpredictable situations in ways that yield robust, real-world applications.
Rein Ulijn, director of the nanoscience initiative of the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, has developed and commercialized gel technologies with unique properties that mimic biological environments. The discoveries by Dr. Ulijn and his team lab led him to establish Biogelx Ltd., a startup company based in Scotland, to commercialize synthetic peptide gels for use in cell culturing.