Forisome as biomimetic smart materials

Amy Shen, Ben Hamlington, Michael Knoblauch, Winfried Peters, William Pickard

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


With the discovery in plants of the proteinaceous forisome crystalloid (Knoblauch et al. 2003), a novel nastic non-living, ATP-independent biological material became available to the designer of smart materials for advanced actuating and sensing. The in vitro studies of Knoblauch et al. show that forisomes (1-3 micron wide and 10-30 micron long) can be repeatedly stimulated to contract and expand anisotropically by shifting either the ambient pH or the ambient calcium ion concentration. In a device, the energy required for the transformations would be provided electrochemically by mini-electrodes inducing pH variation. Because of their unique abilities to develop and reverse strains greater than 20% in time periods less than 1s, forisomes have the potential to outperform current smart materials (such as ATP-dependent actuators or synthetic hydrogels/polymers) as advanced, biomimetic, multi-functional, smart sensors or valves or actuators. To date, studies have been limited to questions of protein engineering explored by Knaublach et al. Probing forisome material properties is therefore an immediate need to lay the foundation for synthesizing forisome-based smart materials for health monitoring of structural integrity in civil infrastructure and aerospace hardware. Microfluidics is a growing, vibrant technology with increasingly diverse applications. Microfluidics enables biological processes to be examined on a few micron scale at which physical processes such as osmotic movement, and surface interactions become dominant. To synthesize forisome based smart materials, we need to understand the binding properties between forisome and substrates, and the conformation kinetics of forisomes inside a hosting matrix at small length scales. Here, we use microfluidics to study the surface interaction between forisome and substrate and the conformational dynamics of forisomes within a confined geometry to lay the foundation for forisome-based smart materials synthesis with controlled and repeatable environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
Pages (from-to)97-107
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Issue numberPART 1
StatePublished - 2005
EventSmart Structures and Materials 2005 - Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 7 2005Mar 10 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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