The basic research theme of the new NCCR is to use inspiration from Nature for the design of artificial materials that can change their properties “on command” - in other words in response to an external stimulus. These materials, sometimes referred to as “smart” or “intelligent”, are of fundamental scientific interest and potentially useful in countless applications that range from climate control for buildings to drug delivery systems.

In the recent past, scientists have begun to consider Nature’s principles as inspiration for the design of artificial materials with intriguing stimuli-responsive properties. Previous examples of materials studied by individual research groups that belong to the Center include mechanically adaptive nanocomposites inspired by sea cucumbers, drug-delivery nanoparticles that mimic the structure and stealth behavior of viruses, and optical elements that emulate the nanopatterns found in butterfly wings.

With the aim of carrying out paradigm-changing scientific breakthroughs and harnessing the huge innovation potential in this domain, the new Center has launched a large-scale interdisciplinary effort that merges competences in chemistry, physics, materials science, biology, and medicine.

Research will be organized in three interdisciplinary modules that focus on mechanically responsive materials, responsive materials made by self-assembly, and the interactions of responsive materials with living cells.

The National Centers of Competence in Research (NCCR) are a research instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation
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