CBES Investigators

Samuel Stupp

Liam Palmer

Research Associate Professor
Simpson Querrey Institute

Oliver Dumele

Postdoctoral Fellow
Chemistry

Ronit Freeman

Postdoctoral Fellow
Simpson Querrey Institute

Mark Hendricks

Postdoctoral Fellow
Simpson Querrey Institute

Chuang Li

Postdoctoral Fellow
Materials Science and Engineering

Hiroaki Sai

Postdoctoral Fellow
Simpson Querrey Institute

Stacey Chin

PhD Candidate
Chemistry

Jack Edelbrock

PhD Candidate
Materials Science and Engineering

Eric Bruckner

Graduate Student
Materials Science and Engineering

Thomas Cotey

Graduate Student
Materials Science and Engineering

Research Overview

Research in the Stupp group is highly interdisciplinary, integrating chemical synthesis and materials science to create highly functional materials. The main interest of the group is the development of self-assembling organic materials, focusing on functions that have been inspired by biology. The laboratory is currently interested on nanostructures and materials that contribute to all three CBES thrusts.

Project: Energy landscapes of supramolecular systems determine their function

Over the past several decades, the field of supramolecular materials has grown dramatically as a result of advances in molecular synthesis and a better understanding of intermolecular forces. However, the design of function in these systems requires a perspective that goes beyond a static or thermodynamic viewpoint. For instance, recent work has shown that that not only molecular design, but also the preparation pathway of supramolecular materials, can drastically affect the nano-architectures.

(Left) The energy landscape of self-assembly for peptide solutions. Two products can be formed depending on the preparative pathway. (Right) Bringing a droplet of biopolymer solution in contact with the peptide solution creates a hierarchically ordered membrane. Depending on the position in the landscape this membrane is weak and unordered or strong and ordered.

In one of our CBES projects, we investigate the missing link between pathway dependency and the energy landscape of self-assembled supramolecular systems. Depending on the pathway used to prepare a peptide solution, two different supramolecular architectures can be obtained under the exact same conditions. Each of these two assemblies corresponds to a thermodynamic well in the free energy landscape, a kinetically trapped product and a thermodynamically favored product (Figure 1). The underlying mechanism for this phenomenon arises from the interplay between repulsive electrostatic interactions and the ability of beta-sheet secondary structure to trap molecules in thermodynamically unfavorable configurations.

Naturally, both products have different materials properties. While the first can accommodate the attachment of biological cells, the latter cannot. Moreover, the kinetically trapped product can be used to create hierarchically ordered membranes, whereas the thermodynamically favored product cannot.

Tantakitti, Boekhoven, et al. "The energy landscapes of supramolecular systems determine their function” Manuscript in preparation.