Engineering the On-The-Fly Control of 3-D Printed Block Bottlebrush Assemblies via Dynamic Bonds and Materials Processing

Project Personnel

Charles Sing

Principal Investigator

Email: [email protected]

Ying Diao

Damien Guironnet

Simon Rogers

Benji Maruyama

Funding Divisions

Division of Materials Research (DMR), Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI), Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET)

Biology is capable of creating materials with truly complex properties; for example, chameleons can change their color by stretching their skin in ways that affect nanoscale structure, and muscle proteins can controllably break and reform to act as ‘shock absorbers’ that dissipate energy. These biological materials share a foundational principle, which is that molecular interactions have evolved to precisely control both the nanoscale structure and dynamics that govern function. Synthetic soft materials, however, rarely reach this level of sophistication due to the challenge of controlling both molecular arrangement and motions simultaneously. 

This Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) project seeks to bridge this gap by ‘dialing-in’ material properties on-the-fly by using processing to exert spatial and temporal control over molecular interactions. This will be achieved by using processing flows in 3-D printing to control molecular assemblies, along with breaking/reforming of chemical bonds to relax or arrest the material structure. Automated printing and characterization will facilitate materials discovery through machine learning protocols and will inform molecular design principles. This interdisciplinary effort will bring together academic researchers and scientists from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) who have combined expertise regarding making and characterizing materials, automating synthesis and processing, and using molecular simulation and machine learning. The effort will harness nanoscale structure and dynamics to create materials that emulate the complicated functions seen in biology. These new materials and processing capabilities will benefit society and the U.S. by on-the-fly printing new items with potential applications in camouflage, metamaterials, radiative cooling, energy conversion and storage devices, and displays. The research will also involve the training of students with broad expertise spanning chemistry, engineering, and physics, via both student mentorship and educational outreach to students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields.