Unlocking the Next Generation of Science with Nature-Inspired Materials and Biomimicry

Nanotechnology and materials science will be critical topics at Pittcon 2021. This article outlines some of the themes that speakers and presenters will cover during the conference.

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Nanotechnology and materials science have played crucial roles in scientific innovation over the past few decades. Nanotechnology involves studying particles and structures in the size range of 1-100 nm, while materials science involves studying the structure and function of materials, often requiring nanoscale characterization. As a result, the two topics frequently go hand in hand.

This year, Pittcon will feature a range of critical topics in materials science and nanotechnology through a range of sessions, lectures and presentations. To ensure everyone can attend the most important event on the analytical calendar despite the pandemic, Pittcon will take place as a virtual online event this year from March 8 to 12.

Taking Material Inspiration from Nature

Nature has spent millions of years evolving a playbook of engineering and materials solutions that are much more advanced than anything we can currently create in a laboratory.

Scientists are now using increasingly sophisticated characterization techniques to unlock the secrets of natural materials. What is more, they are using what they have learned to design synthetic materials with more advanced properties than we have ever seen before.

For example, we can now create nanocomposites that mimic bone, bringing together toughness and strength in a way that has evaded materials engineers previously.

However, creating biomimetic materials relies on a perfect assembly of organic and inorganic components at micro and nanoscale, with precise structural features that enable the material's properties, making manufacturing very challenging.

In her talk "Nature-Inspired Materials Science - Challenges and Opportunities," Dr. Ulrike Wegst from Northeastern University will outline some of the challenges in manufacturing biomimetic materials and present some of the cutting-edge synthesis techniques that may allow wider application of biomimetic materials.

If you are interested in bioinspired materials, make sure you attend the "Nature Inspired Material Science" session on Wednesday, March 10, from 1:30-4:40 PM, where we will learn from the experts about the exceptional qualities of nature-inspired materials and the challenges they face in design, synthesis and application.

Mimicking Natural Nanostructures

Nature often relies on nanostructures to provide remarkable and unique properties seen in the plant and animal world. Examples include the nanofibers on gecko feet which allow them to climb walls, hang from ceilings and defy gravity, and the nanocrystals under chameleon’s skin that enable them to change color in response to external stimuli.

Identifying, understanding and mimicking natural nanostructures can help us create new technologies and features. For example, adhesive tapes that use nanostructures that mimic those found on gecko feet are now commercially available with potential applications in aerospace engineering, robots, prosthetics, wearable devices and gloves.

However, like bioinspired materials, manufacturing nanostructures that mimic those found in nature can be challenging. It has taken several years for gecko adhesive, which has a relatively simple nanostructure, to reach the commercial market despite its relatively simple structure.

In his talk at the "Nature Inspired Material Science" session at Pittcon, Dr. Chih-Hao Chang from The University of Texas at Auston will discuss recent efforts in manufacturing nature-inspired nanostructures.

Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology in Breakthrough Medical Applications

When you think of nanotechnology, your mind may jump to applications in electronics and consumer products, but nanomaterials will undoubtedly have an even more significant impact in medicine and the life sciences in the coming decades, with applications in imaging, diagnostics and precision drug delivery.

Pittcon will cover several cutting-edge nanoscience applications to drug delivery and diagnostics this year, with topics including applications of nanophase silicon, protein spherical nucleic acids and lanthanoid metal-organic frameworks.

If you are interested in the next generation of nanotechnology for drug delivery, imaging and diagnostics, make sure you attend the "Nanosized Molecules, Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology for Biological Analysis and Medical Diagnostic: from Fundamental Research to Practical Applications" session on Monday, March 8, 8:30-11:40 AM.

The role of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology in the Fight Against COVID-19

The potential for nanotechnology in medicine has been highlighted this year more than ever, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nanotechnology has contributed to solutions for testing, vaccines and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

But the virus has also highlighted scientific shortcomings in testing, such as the long delay in widely available testing and the test's inability to detect virus for days after infection.  

The "Emerging Technologies for Precision Diagnostics of Infections and Infectious Diseases" session at Pittcon on Thursday, March 11, from 8.30 AM -11.40 AM, will discuss various cutting-edge detection methods for pathogenic threats.

Presentations will cover new, ultrasensitive analytical technologies using adaptable nanoparticles that can detect even tiny amounts of a particular pathogen or biomarker, allowing them to the disease earlier than traditional testing methods, and stop the spread, thereby preventing the next pandemic.

Conclusions

All these topics, and more, will be covered by a range of presentations and exhibitions at Pittcon 2021, which is taking virtually from 8 to March 12.

What is more, market-leading producers of analytical technologies suited to characterizing materials and nanoscale systems will be exhibiting, so don’t miss your chance to ask them about the latest additions to their capabilities and your specific analytical requirements.

References

  • Nature Inspired Materials https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210210/Nature-Inspired-Materials.aspx
  • Hwang J, et al. Biomimetics: forecasting the future of science, engineering, and medicine, International Journal of Nanomedicine 2015;10:5701-5713. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4572716/
  • Zhang C, et al. Nano/Micro‐Manufacturing of Bioinspired Materials: a Review of Methods to Mimic Natural Structures. Advanced Materials 2016; 28(30):6292-6321.
  • Nanostructures in Nature – AzoNano https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3724
  • Fine D et al., Silicon Micro- and Nanofabrication for Medicine. Advanced Healthcare Materials 2013; 2(5):632-666 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777663/
  • Samanta D et al., Nucleic‐Acid Structures as Intracellular Probes for Live Cells. Advanced Materials 2019; 32(13):1901743. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201901743
  • Uh H et al., Novel antennae for the sensitization of near infrared luminescent lanthanide cations. Comptes Rendus Chimie 2010; 13(6-7) 668-680. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1631074810001335
  • Campos EVR et al., How can nanotechnology help to combat COVID-19? Opportunities and urgent need. Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2020;18:125. https://jnanobiotechnology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12951-020-00685-4

Last updated: Mar 2, 2021 at 6:17 AM

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