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CryoEM finds complexity in structural evolution of active materials

Synthetic active materials are designed to mimic complex biological materials such as microtubules.

Here, we studied a chemically driven active material using cryo electron microscopy which allowed us to see the structures these materials form at very high resolution.

We found that active materials can form specific types of structures, in this case ordered arrays of nanorods, for long periods of time (hours). In contrast, these structures would typically only form for a few seconds in conventional materials.

This is important because novel structures, especially ordered arrays, often display novel properties. We believe this new structural insight will lead to new applications for active materials.

This study advances the MRSEC IRG2 goal of engineering and controlling a active materials with unique structural properties that can respond to external stimuli.