This project’s overarching goal is to utilize exquisitely evolved photo-switchable proteins to build novel light responsive materials. Towards this end, we will design novel hydrogels with optogenetic tools as crosslinkers (“optogels”) to dynamically control material properties through spatially-resolved light inputs. This stimuli-responsive, bio-enabled material platform will be used to embed logic through material states.
Our proposed research perfectly aligns with the Army’s interests in predictive design of engineered biological materials research. We will develop experimental and computational tools to enable scalable synthesis and assembly of bio-enabled optogels with precise control over light-programmable material properties (phase transitions, stiffness, and adhesion). We will characterize optogels using non-destructive, in situ contact mechanics analyses of buried interfaces using custom-built instrumentation with low force and positional uncertainties. Our work will generate large libraries of material variants and identify boundaries of the biological feature-material property landscape for the design of next-generation bio-engineered materials.