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This plastic stirrer will stay a plastic stirrer for the rest of its life, it is the only thing it can do. That’s the problem with all materials we make nowadays: they are very good at one thing, but as soon as it breaks or we don’t need it anymore, we throw it away.

However, if you look at nature, you see that other solutions are possible. Nature is completely build from materials that feel what happens in their surroundings and adapt to those circumstances. For instance trees that start growing their leaves as spring begins, or fungi that grow threads toward a place where food is available.

And interestingly, all that behaviour is programmed in their chemistry, in the molecular building blocks of life. Our goal is to build similar processes. Not to build a complete tree or fungi, but to see if we can use nature’s smart solutions and implant them into synthetic materials.

Thereby, we hope to create materials that can sense what happens in their surroundings in a much smarter way, and that can process this information like a computer program to decide what to do next. Similar to what happens in living materials. And I am convinced that his approach will lead to a much more sustainable and smarter use of our raw materials.

BLURRING THE LINES BETWEEN LIVING AND DEAD MATERIALS
PETER KOREVAAR
Radboud University Nijmegen

The materials we use nowadays are only good at one thing, but in nature that is very different. Trees and plants adapt constantly and react on their surroundings, because their chemical composition allows them to do this. Peter Korevaar wants to unravel the secret behind this flexibility and apply this in smart materials.

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