Living organisms produce remarkable polymeric fibers that self-assemble from biomolecular building blocks. Employing a cross-disciplinary approach, our group has harnessed advanced material characterization techniques, including confocal Raman spectroscopy, electron microscopy (FIB-SEM and TEM-EDX) and synchrotron X-ray diffraction, as well as traditional biochemical approaches to investigate the fabrication of a number of high-performance bio-fibers, including the mussel byssus, velvet worm slime fibers and mistletoe viscin fibers. Elucidation of the physical and chemical forces driving assembly of such materials provides design principles for inspiring “green” polymer processing methods, as well as for fabrication of soft hierarchically structured materials for biomedical applications (e.g. tissue scaffolds, surgical adhesives). Our comparative studies have identified several novel assembly mechanisms, which may have relevance in this realm. In this talk, I will highlight recent results from our investigations.
Prof. Matthew Harrington received his Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of California, Santa Barbara in the lab of J. Herbert Waite. This was followed by a Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in the Department of Biomaterials, where he later became a research group leader in 2010. In August 2017, he joined the Department of Chemistry at McGill University as assistant professor in Green Chemistry. His research is focused on understanding biochemical structure–function relationships in protein-based biological materials and applying extracted design principles for the development of high-performance bio-inspired materials.