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Research Overview

Research Overview

Biological materials have exquisite properties that enable them to naturally participate in various chemical and physical phenomena, assemble into complex shapes, and bind molecules or particles.  Our research focuses on exploiting, enhancing and complementing these properties to fabricate next-generation multifunctional materials and devices.  
Specifically, we combine
  • genetic engineering to program biomaterials with novel functions;
  • bioconjugate, organic and inorganic chemical syntheses to form composites and to interface biological with inorganic materials;
  • materials assembly and microfabrication techniques to construct useful devices.

Ongoing Projects

Synthesis of protein-based materials with novel structures and physical properties​

Functional protein-based materials
Protein-based materials exhibit several advantages over traditional polymeric or inorganic materials.  For instance, they are flexible, biocompatible, and biodegradable.  Our group is exploring methods to produce functional protein-based materials and coatings at a large scale, in order to develop technologies applicable to real-world problems.  We are interested in engineering materials with novel properties, such as the ability to fluoresce, conduct charges, absorb light, display specific binding activities, or respond to environmental stimuli.
Protein-based materials, Protein film, amyloid proteins, filter membrane
"Bacterial builders" produce functional materials, Wyss Institute (2016).
Dorval Courchesne, Duraj-Thatte, et al., Biomater Sci & Eng (2016).
Protein fibers, self-assembled proteins, conductive protein fibers
Self-assembling protein fibers, Dorval Courchesne (2016).
Energy conversion and storage devices

Biologically-derived energy conversion and storage devices​

Biological structures can serve as scaffolds for photoactive or conductive nanomaterials. They can also sometime directly participate in charge transport mechanisms. Biomaterials can thus be used to drive the nanoscale assembly of materials in a variety of devices including solar cells, batteries and capacitors.

Devices derived from biology can take advantage of self-assembling properties of biomaterials, their biocompatibility, and their unique shapes. For instance, fibrous proteins or nanowire-like viruses are used to create continuous pathways for charge transport.
biotemplated devices, virus-based solar cells, bioenergy
Virus-based solar cells, Dorval Courchesne (2015).
Conductive fibers, electrodes, devices, bioenergy, protein-based electronics
Through genetic engineering and bioconjugation, we are rationally designing biomaterials capable of generating, storing and transporting charges. We use various characterization methods to understand their properties and guide the design of novel energy conversion and storage devices.
Electronically conductive protein fibers deposited on microfabricated gold electrodes, Dorval Courchesne (2016).

​Biosensors for environmental and biomedical applications

Composite materials and engineered biomaterials can be designed to specifically bind small molecules or proteins, such as biological markers and environmental contaminants.  Coupling these binding activities with nanoscale phenomena can lead to the development of efficient and environmentally-friendly sensing technologies.
virus composite material, bio-sensing, protein-based sensor
Virus-gold nanoparticle composite film as optical sensor,  Illustration by Matthew T. Klug (2015).


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Some of our collaborators...

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