Bio-Enigma: High-Throughput Screening for Programmable Advanced Materials
Abstract: Recent advances in the nanotechnology of materials, combined with parallel improvements in biotechnology and synthetic biology, have demonstrated that more complex biomimetic materials with properties engineered precisely to optimize performance can be achieved. Specifically, proteins provide unique advantages as advanced materials. For example, proteins can often self-assemble and form network materials with extraordinary properties, such as extremely high durability or elasticity. More importantly, protein can evolve to new functionalities by gene mutations or duplications, which is a unique advantage compared with inorganic materials.
Recently, we used a direct correlation between gene duplications and its impact on physical properties to demonstrate that tandem repetition of protein sequences enhances physical properties. This method opened the opportunity for the assembly of two-dimensional materials (e.g., graphene, MXene) that are precisely controlled with nm resolution for application in electronic and optical devices. In parallel, we reported the development of a new technique to screen protein evolution based on laser-probing spectroscopy with sub-picosecond resolution.
Our results demonstrate, for the first time, relative quantification of protein network topology in real time for directed evolution. Hence, combining materials assembly and high-throughput screening, we could answer many fundamental questions in materials research, such as the fundamental long-range order in soft matter as well as development of new tools for advanced materials assembly. Programming physical properties through evolution introduces a new design rule for the understanding of materials design.