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Complexity Lecture by Prof. Nathalie Katsonis
Complexity Lecture by Prof. Nathalie Katsonis
Wednesday 23 March, 2016
Prof. Nathalie Katsonis (Twente University, The Netherlands) gave a talk on February 5th entitled “Bio-inspired approaches towards complexity in smart materials”, covering her work with Prof. Stephen Fletcher, Keble Tutorial Fellow in Chemistry.
Driven by the notion of engineering new smart materials that outperform the functionality of what is currently used, she has embraced complexity as a tool to invent new material and introduce behaviour and function in them. These include coming up with ways to transform energy into motion with special focus on light as a means to initiate such changes. 
Recently the development of molecules that act as switches, motors and ratchets have been demonstrated; however Prof. Katsonis considers many of these still lack versatility, movement (tendency to be just mono dimensional), and complexity. Aiming to have more amplitude, versatility, complexity to provide something like to the power of move by mimicking plants, she and her colleagues have been working on reproducing the opening of chiral seed pods (Armon. Science 2011) and the coiling of cucumber tendrils (Gerbode, Science 2012) which in both cases are brought about by ‘deformation modes’ that produce curvature.
Their research has recently produced responsive springs forming photo-patterning liquid crystals elastomers (LCE) (Katsonis, Fletcher. Nature Chem 2014, 6). An LCE is a hybrid, composite material that combines liquid crystal orientational order with the elastic properties of a polymer network. In their research, a ‘work’ is produced by photo induction which is caused by disorder in the elastomer. Katsonis and colleagues are now looking to introduce more power into this LCE’s by biomimicry.