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Nano Today. 2012 Dec 1;7(6):488-495.

Materials by Design: Merging Proteins and Music.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Tailored materials with tunable properties are crucial for applications as biomaterials, for drug delivery, as functional coatings, or as lightweight composites. An emerging paradigm in designing such materials is the construction of hierarchical assemblies of simple building blocks into complex architectures with superior properties. We review this approach in a case study of silk, a genetically programmable and processable biomaterial, which, in its natural role serves as a versatile protein fiber with hierarchical organization to provide structural support, prey procurement or protection of eggs. Through an abstraction of knowledge from the physical system, silk, to a mathematical model using category theory, we describe how the mechanism of spinning fibers from proteins can be translated into music through a process that assigns a set of rules that governs the construction of the system. This technique allows one to express the structure, mechanisms and properties of the 'material' in a very different domain, 'music'. The integration of science and art through categorization of structure-property relationships presents a novel paradigm to create new bioinspired materials, through the translation of structures and mechanisms from distinct hierarchical systems and in the context of the limited number of building blocks that universally governs these systems.


Nanotechnology; arts; biology; design; experiment; manufacturing; music; nanomechanics; protein; theory

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