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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Playing with Droplets: Using Self-Assembly to Create Biomolecular Smart Materials

Andy Sarles, Assistant ProfessorCollege of Engineering - Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering

Biological molecules, or biomolecules, are the molecular machinery that enables living organisms to perform nearly all the tasks required for growth and survival. While one molecule may act as a pump to shuttle information or mass, other molecules may convert energy, send signals, or perform mechanical work. Since biomolecules function autonomously, they can be considered “smart” materials. However, in order to use biomolecules for creating smart devices, there is a need for ways to host biomolecules that retain their native structures and inherent functionalities. That’s where droplets come in. This presentation will focus on experimental methods that being developed by using simple water droplets and self-assembly principles to arrange biomolecules into structures that allow them to work in a synthetic device. In addition to this basic research, droplet-based assemblies are being applied to detect deadly neurotoxins and create sensors that could be used to treat hearing loss.​

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