Human-made materials do not grow with time. Incorporating growth into contemporary materials functionality presents a grand challenge in applied physics and materials design. Can we use cytoskeletal proteins that continuously grow and remodel to design novel tunable materials? What new fundamental physics can we learn from these actively driven, out-of-equilibrium biomaterials?
Designing Mechanical Memory: In a study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, we demonstrate that we can create cytoskeletal networks with a range of stiffnesses by controlling the density of actin nucleating from a surface. These networks grow into dense spiral shapes at intermediate densities, which retain their shapes even when perturbed. We identified this phenomenon as a method to store information in a lossless manner.
Tunable Active Matter: In another study published in the journal Soft Matter, we created a reconstituted network of crosslinked microtubule proteins driven with Kinesin motors. We show that by tuning the concentration of crosslinker proteins, we can make these networks either expand, contract, or stay stable. This tunable contractility is an example of a material whose mechanical response to applied load can not only be modulated but even reversed by controlling its connectivity.
“F-actin architecture determines constraints on myosin thick filament motion,” C.G. Muresan*, Z.G. Sun*, V. Yadav, A.P. Tabatabai, L. Lanier, J.H. Kim, T. Kim, and M.P. Murrell, Nature Communications (2022).
“Filament nucleation tunes mechanical memory in active polymer networks,” V. Yadav, D. S. Banerjee, A. Pasha Tabatabai, D. R. Kovar, T. Kim, S. Banerjee, M. P. Murrell, Advanced Functional Materials (2020).
“Contractility in an extensile system,” K. T. Stanhope, V. Yadav, C. D. Santangelo, J. L. Ross, Soft Matter (2017).