SMARTS: Self-regulating Artificial Material Systems

Grinthal A, Aizenberg J. Adaptive all the way down: Building responsive materials from hierarchies of chemomechanical feedback. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2013;42 (17) :7072-7085. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A living organism is a bundle of dynamic, integrated adaptive processes: not only does it continuously respond to constant changes in temperature, sunlight, nutrients, and other features of its environment, but it does so by coordinating hierarchies of feedback among cells, tissues, organs, and networks all continuously adapting to each other. At the root of it all is one of the most fundamental adaptive processes: the constant tug of war between chemistry and mechanics that interweaves chemical signals with endless reconfigurations of macromolecules, fibers, meshworks, and membranes. In this tutorial we explore how such chemomechanical feedback – as an inherently dynamic, iterative process connecting size and time scales – can and has been similarly evoked in synthetic materials to produce a fascinating diversity of complex multiscale responsive behaviors. We discuss how chemical kinetics and architecture can be designed to generate stimulus-induced 3D spatiotemporal waves and topographic patterns within a single bulk material, and how feedback between interior dynamics and surface-wide instabilities can further generate higher order buckling and wrinkling patterns. Building on these phenomena, we show how yet higher levels of feedback and spatiotemporal complexity can be programmed into hybrid materials, and how these mechanisms allow hybrid materials to be further integrated into multicompartmental systems capable of hierarchical chemo-mechano-chemical feedback responses. These responses no doubt represent only a small sample of the chemomechanical feedback behaviors waiting to be discovered in synthetic materials, and enable us to envision nearly limitless possibilities for designing multiresponsive, multifunctional, self-adapting materials and systems.
Shastri A, McGregor LM, Liu Y, Harris V, Nan H, Mujica M, Vasquez Y, Bhattacharya A, Ma Y, Aizenberg M, et al. An aptamer-functionalized chemomechanically modulated biomolecule catch-and-release system. Nat. Chem. 2015;7 (5) :447-454. Full TextAbstract
The efficient extraction of (bio)molecules from fluid mixtures is vital for applications ranging from target characterization in (bio)chemistry to environmental analysis and biomedical diagnostics. Inspired by biological processes that seamlessly synchronize the capture, transport and release of biomolecules, we designed a robust chemomechanical sorting system capable of the concerted catch and release of target biomolecules from a solution mixture. The hybrid system is composed of target-specific, reversible binding sites attached to microscopic fins embedded in a responsive hydrogel that moves the cargo between two chemically distinct environments. To demonstrate the utility of the system, we focus on the effective separation of ​thrombin by synchronizing the pH-dependent binding strength of a ​thrombin-specific aptamer with volume changes of the pH-responsive hydrogel in a biphasic microfluidic regime, and show a non-destructive separation that has a quantitative sorting efficiency, as well as the system's stability and amenability to multiple solution recycling.