Such materials could seal blood vessels during surgery and re-open them subsequently.
Materials that self-assemble and self-destruct once their work is done are highly advantageous for a number of applications – as components in temporary data storage systems or for medical devices.
For example, such materials could seal blood vessels during surgery and re-open them subsequently. Dr. Andreas Walther, research group leader at DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen, developed an aqueous system that uses a single starting point to induce self-assembly formation, whose stability is pre-programmed with a lifetime before disassembly occurs without any additional external signal – hence presenting an artificial selfregulation mechanism in closed conditions. Their results are published as this week’s cover article in ‘Nano Letters’.
Biologically inspired principles for synthesis of complex materials are one of Andreas Walther’s key research interests. To allow the preparation of very small, elaborate objects, nanotechnology uses self-assembly. Usually, in man-made self-assemblies, molecular interactions guide tiny building blocks to aggregate into 3D architectures until equilibrium is reached. However, nature goes one step further and prevents certain processes from reaching equilibrium. Assembly competes with disassembly, and self-regulation occurs. For example, microtubules, components of the cytoskeleton, continuously grow, shrink and rearrange. Once they run out of their biological fuel, they will disassemble.