Markus Buehler
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Duke University, Schiciano B | 12:00pm

Materials in biology are synthesized, controlled and used for a variety of purposes—structural support, force generation, mass transport, catalysis, or energy conversion—despite severe limitations in available energy, quality and quantity of building blocks.  By incorporating concepts from chemistry, biology and engineering, computational modeling has led the way in identifying the core principles that link the molecular structure of biomaterials at scales of nanometers to physiological scales at the level of tissues, organs, and organisms. As a result a new paradigm of materials design has emerged, based on the insight that the way components are connected at different length-scales defines what material properties can be achieved, how they can be altered to meet functional requirements, and how they fail in disease states; rather than the chemical composition of materials alone. The use of the world’s fastest supercomputers allows us to predict properties of complex materials from first principles, realized in a multiscale modeling approach that spans massive ranges in scale. Combined with experimental studies, such in silico models allow us to simulate disease, understand catastrophic failure of tissues and organs, and enable us to translate concepts from the living world into groundbreaking material designs that challenge the distinction between the living and non-living systems.  We review case studies of joint experimental-computational work of materials design, manufacturing and testing and outline challenges and opportunities for technological innovation for biomaterials and beyond.