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CBES: Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science


Read the most recent Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES) news below, and subscribe to our newsletters to stay informed about what is happening at CBES. Stories from previous years are available in our News Archive
Monica Olvera de la Cruz

Understanding metallization could help the development of superionic materials for safe, efficient batteries

December 8, 2021
Led by CBES deputy director Monica Olvera de la Cruz, a team of researchers observed a classical system that exhibits a transition between insulating and conducting states. The group hopes this will accelerate the development of safe solid-state batteries, with the usage of metallizable colloidal crystals for future prototypes.

Electric fields induce oscillations in tiny particles

June 24, 2021

CBES researchers led by Kyle Bishop and Monica Olvera de la Cruz have demonstrated the use of DC electric fields to drive back-and-forth rotation of micro-particles in electric boundary layers. These particle oscillators could be useful as clocks that coordinate the organization of active matter and even, perhaps, orchestrate the functions of micron-scale robots.

“Tiny particle oscillators could enable new types of active matter that combine the swarming behaviors of self-propelled colloids and the synchronizing behaviors of coupled oscillators,” Bishop said. “We expect interactions among the particles to depend on their respective positions and phases, thus enabling richer collective behaviors—behaviors that can be designed and exploited for applications in swarm robotics.”

Danna Freedman

Freedman named Blavatnik Award finalist

June 15, 2021
CBES senior investigator Danna Freedman has been named one of 11 finalists in the chemistry category for the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Three winners — one each in life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering — will be announced on July 20. The awards honor outstanding faculty-level scientific researchers and engineers age 42 and younger.
Chad Mirkin portrait

Mirkin wins prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry prize

June 10, 2021
CBES senior investigator Chad Mirkin has been named the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s de Gennes Prize, which celebrates the most exciting chemical science taking place today. Mirkin won the prize for contributions to supramolecular chemistry and nanoscience, in particular the invention and development of methods for nanolithography, high-area rapid printing, and photocontrol in nanoparticle synthesis.

Balazs elected to National Academy of Sciences

May 17, 2021

CBES senior investigator Anna Balazs has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is one of 120 newly elected members to the prestigious academy — including a one-year record of 59 women.

“Throughout her career, Anna has advanced the field of materials and computational modeling, and we are so proud that the National Academy of Sciences has bestowed her with this honor,” said James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pittsburgh. “Her research has built the foundation for future materials and their use in ways that even only a decade ago were science fiction.”

Experimental materials bending into origami-like shapes

Bilayer strategy leads to faster response in light-driven soft robots

May 4, 2021
Northwestern University researchers have advanced their quest to design life-like behaviors into robotic soft matter, reporting on new systems that move faster than previous iterations and undergo predictable 3D shape changes — all in response to light.
Sangmin Lee

Meet the Researchers: Sangmin Lee

March 26, 2021
Sangmin Lee recently earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan under the supervision of CBES senior investigator Sharon Glotzer. In this Q&A, Lee describes his CBES-supported research and the plans for his new postdoctoral appointment at the University of Washington.
Zack Urbach

Meet the Researchers: Zack Urbach

December 10, 2020
Zack Urbach is a graduate student in the group of CBES senior investigator Chad Mirkin studying the effect of DNA and magnetic coupling interactions on nanoparticles. In this Q&A, Urbach discusses the two papers he has published on this topic, his post-graduation plans and his experience mentoring middle school students in Chicago.
Soft aquatic robot

Aquatic robot inspired by sea creatures walks, rolls, transports cargo

December 9, 2020
CBES researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind life-like material that acts as a soft robot. It can walk at human speed, pick up and transport cargo to a new location, climb up hills and even break-dance to release a particle.
Clarivate Analytics logo

Four CBES investigators land on highly cited list

November 19, 2020
CBES senior investigators Joanna Aizenberg, Chad Mirkin, George Schatz and George Whitesides have been recognized as 2020 Highly Cited Researchers by Clarivate Analytics. The list identifies scientists who have produced multiple papers over the past decade ranking in the top 1 percent of citations by field and publication year.
Chase Brisbois portrait

Meet the Researchers: Chase Brisbois

September 1, 2020
Chase Brisbois is a graduate student specializing in computational soft matter in the laboratory of CBES deputy director Monica Olvera de la Cruz. In this interview, Brisbois describes his early love of science and plants as well as his research on using magnetic fields to control microswimmers.

Weiss wins ACS Award in Colloid Chemistry

August 14, 2020

CBES senior investigator Emily Weiss has been recognized with the 2021 ACS Award in Colloid Chemistry, the American Chemical Society announced. Weiss, the Mark and Nancy Ratner Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern, is scheduled to be honored along with the other national award winners in March at the ACS 2021 Spring Meeting in San Antonio.

Graphic illustration of hybrid perovskite materials

CBES, MIT researchers develop novel materials for energy and sensing

July 6, 2020
A team of scientists from CBES and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated the ability to fine-tune the electronic properties of hybrid perovskite materials, which have drawn enormous interest as potential next-generation optoelectronic materials for devices such as solar cells and light sources. The research was published online July 6 in Nature Chemistry and selected as the cover article for the journal's August print edition.
Object crawls when hit with blue light

Synthetic materials mimic living creatures

June 22, 2020
CBES researchers have developed "robotic soft matter" that mimics living creatures by bending, rotating and even crawling when hit with light. The scientists believe the lifelike materials could carry out many tasks, with potential applications in energy, environmental remediation and advanced medicine.
Emily Weiss photo

Weiss named a Blavatnik National Awards finalist for third straight year

June 17, 2020
CBES senior investigator Emily Weiss has been named a finalist for the 2020 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, which offer the largest unrestricted awards of their kind for early career scientists and engineers. The finalists are considered to be some of America’s most important young scientific researchers aged 42 years or younger, driving the next generation of innovation by addressing today’s most complex and intriguing scientific questions.

Researchers develop new set of colloidal crystals

June 12, 2020

In work supported by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science, researchers demonstrated a new method for engineering colloidal crystals using metal-organic framework nanoparticles chemically modified with DNA. These materials have potential applications in chemical detection and decontamination, among other functions relevant to energy.

CBES senior investigator Chad Mirkin was corresponding author of the paper.

Whitesides to receive honorary degree from Northwestern

May 6, 2020

CBES senior investigator George Whitesides will receive an honorary degree from Northwestern University during a virtual commencement ceremony on June 19.

Whitesides is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University and has made seminal contributions in the areas of chemistry, materials science, mechanical engineering, drug discovery and medical diagnostic systems for underdeveloped regions, among many others. His prolific and wide-reaching work has led to the development of materials for robotic systems, surface chemistries for drug discovery assays and methods for microfabrication. 

Samuel Stupp portrait

CBES director Samuel Stupp elected to National Academy of Sciences

April 28, 2020
CBES director Samuel Stupp has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of “outstanding contributions to supramolecular and materials chemistry," the academy announced. Stupp and the other new members will be inducted at the academy’s annual meeting next April.
Hiroaki Sai portrait

Meet the Researchers: Hiroaki Sai

April 9, 2020
Hiroaki Sai is a research associate in the laboratory of CBES director Samuel Stupp. In this interview, Sai describes his research in solar energy conversion, his contributions to an art installation that has been internationally displayed, and how he developed into a strong and willing mentor for younger scientists in the Stupp group.
Samuel Stupp portrait

CBES director Samuel Stupp awarded 2020 Nanoscience Prize

April 8, 2020
CBES director Samuel Stupp has received the 2020 Nanoscience Prize, the International Society for Nanoscale Science, Computing, and Engineering (ISNSCE) announced April 8. Stupp was honored for his pioneering contributions in the areas of self-assembly and supramolecular chemistry.
Chad Mirkin portrait

High-throughput 3D printer could revolutionize manufacturing

January 30, 2020
In work supported by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science, CBES senior investigator Chad Mirkin and colleagues at Northwestern University developed a 3D printer that can print about half a yard in an hour — a record throughput for 3D printing. The technology, called high-area rapid printing (HARP), was described in an October 2019 publication in Science and was featured in a Big Ten Network story and video published Jan. 29.