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DE-SC0000989: Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES)

Award Status: Active
  • Institution: Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
  • DUNS: 160079455
  • PM: Henderson, Craig
  • Most Recent Award Date: 07/16/2021
  • Number of Support Periods: 9
  • PI: Stupp, Samuel
  • Current Budget Period: 08/01/2021 - 07/31/2022
  • Current Project Period: 08/01/2018 - 07/31/2022
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract

The goal of the Center for Bio-inspired Energy Science (CBES) is to develop the next frontier in soft materials by developing structures that emulate many of the properties we see in biological systems. Soft materials are normally composed fully or partially of organic matter and the best examples are polymers which have had an enormous impact in energy relevant technologies, particularly energy savings in transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure, and construction, among others. The next challenge is to learn how to synthesize soft materials with capacity to interconvert energy forms, for example the way muscles convert chemical to mechanical energy in living organisms, or the way plant leaves optimize light to chemical energy conversion in a resourceful way to synthesize chemicals. Our vision is that basic science research in this area can lead to artificial materials that rival living ones in the remarkable and useful ways they manage energy. Our research program specifically tackles the next big challenge in synthetic design of soft materials, namely learning how to encode in them molecularly the ability to transduce energy forms and even move autonomously in ways that are characteristic of “living matter”. We approach this enormous bio-inspired challenge through chemical design and synthesis combined with engineering strategies to create novel functional systems. The goal is to develop through basic science new opportunities around the concept of “robotic soft matter”, denoting its autonomous ability to rapidly perform mechanical, optical, or chemical tasks with only small inputs of electrical energy and without the use of complex hardware. Equally important is learning to create “photosynthetic matter”, which requires systems structured holistically to enable efficient chemical production using visible light. Our targets to create robotic and photosynthetic soft matter are extremely relevant to future modalities in manufacturing and chemical production, two of the greatest users of energy.


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