Engineering and studying living/bio-based materials

The research in the Aubin-Tam group lies at the interface of biophysics and material science.

Living organisms can fabricate materials with remarkable properties, having the ability to grow, move and sense their environment. Such dynamic and interactive materials are in stark contrast with man-made synthetic materials. We are exploring ways to control materials properties in a dynamic manner, for example by creating light-responsive engineered living materials composed of microalgae.

It is striking that biological materials found in nature possess such excellent (mechanical, optical, ...) properties considering that living organisms use elements available locally in their environment for the fabrication process. Often, the impressive materials performance is achieved by controlling precisely the architecture and local composition of the materials. For example, mollusc nacre shows excellent mechanical toughness due to its layered brick-and-mortar structure. Inspired by this, we use microorganisms to fabricate biomimetic layered composite materials combining high stiffness and toughness, following a sustainable approach.

To study the properties of biological materials (biofilms, cells, lipid membranes), we design, develop and use biophysical assays. We are interested in characterizing the mechanical cellular and biomolecular response of biological material, also while under external physical/chemical stimuli. This, in the hope of understanding the (molecular) mechanisms at the origin of the biomaterials' properties.

Local and international collaborations: Elvin Karana (TU Delft), Markus Linder (AALTO, Finland), Tom Ellis (Imperial College London, UK), Kunal Masania (TU Delft), Daniel Tam (TU Delft), Anne Meyer (Univ. Rochester, USA), Amir Zadpoor (TU Delft), An-Wu Xu (USTC, China), Filipe Natalio (Weizmann Institute).