Module 1. Mechanically responsive materials across different length scales

Mechanically responsive materials are widely exploited by living organisms in nature to perform a variety of biologically-relevant functions, such as protection against predators, morphing, sensing and actuation. Functionalities often emerge from mechanically driven biochemical processes that can take place at different length scales within the biological material. The stress-induced conformational changes of cell membrane proteins, the mechanically-driven variation of the ionic permeability of cell organelles, the shear-induced rupture of micro-containers and the orchestrated action of multiple cells in regenerating tissues are examples of mechanically-driven processes that occur at progressively coarser length scales. Such mechanically-driven phenomena control the adhesion and gating properties of cell membranes, enable the release of reactive species into the environment and trigger the complex machinery that allow for self-healing, regeneration and remodeling of tissues.

Inspired by this rich repertoire of biological materials, the main goal of Module 1 is to design and exploit mecha­ni­cally-induced phenomena at different length scales to impart mechanical, optical, and biological responses that are so far inaccessible in artificial materials. To this end, our team combines the expertise on chemical synthesis, nano­particle formation, encapsulation and 3D printing necessary to cover a broad length-scale spectrum and create mechanically responsive hierarchical materials with unparalleled functionalities.