FinnCERES doctoral student Luiz G. Greca visited the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in February 2020 as part of the GoGlobal mobility programme promoting international exchange.
He visited the group of Gustav Nyström, Head of Cellulose & Wood Materials Lab at Empa, primarily working in the laboratory there learning about and performing the characterization and self-assembly of proteins (BSA and lysozyme) for bio-inspired materials fabrication.
Luiz says, "I also made valuable networking contacts and shared my work related to three-dimensional bacterial nanocellulose production." Originally planned as a two-part visit, a second trip was canceled due to the corona pandemic. He continues, "Nevertheless, , we have been exchanging samples for further characterization", keeping the lines of communication and opportunities for collaboration open to develop bio-inspired materials fabrication. Read more from Luiz's report, below.
Bio-inspired materials fabrication
Self-assembly of colloidal building-blocks, particularly from biomass, into multi-scaled, ordered assemblies, is constantly and increasingly attracting attention from scientists, companies and the general public. This is because of their potential to mimic the unique material attributes found in nature, while helping to develop high-performance sustainable materials solutions.
A mantis shrimp, which is an example in which chitin and proteins synergize to produce outstandingly strong materials. Photo by Dorothea Oldani.
The combination between proteins and chitin require specific attention as they compose the soft, but tough, matrix of crustaceans' shells. This affinity, although not completely understood, is key to the animal kingdom and could be used to produce lighter, stronger and tougher materials.
This one-month exchange involved the combination of the strong know-how from our Empa collaborators on protein assemblies (into amyloids), with our expertise in the separation, purification and assembly of chitin nanocrystals. By deepening our mutual understanding of these materials, we expect to be able to better understand the naturally occurring synergy between them. Furthermore, during this exchange, I had the opportunity to showcase the research we have been developing in the fields of nanocellulose 3D-biofabrication and others.
Luiz G. Greca
Doctoral student in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems at Aalto University