Perhaps you have seen very small tubes sticking out of the sand during a walk on the beach. Those little tubes are the houses of sandcastle worms. The worm builds a cylindrical house by sticking small pieces of shell and stone together. It does that completely under water. And as a chemist I find that very fascinating. Nature is full of animals and plants that I admire because they make fantastic materials. And those materials are also made in a very sustainable way. Besides sandcastle worms, which I mentioned previously, there are many other ways and animals that can produce wonderful materials. There are for example spiders that make a spider web, but also think about a mussel that attaches itself to a rock with wires. In my research group we are interested in all those systems, but copying one-on-one can be complex and therefore very expensive. Hence, we try to understand the essential principles by looking closely at the natural systems and imitating only those principles. This is how we can create new materials with interesting properties, such as a surgical glue that can adhere just as well as the glue of a sandcastle worm.

University of Groningen

Some animals have extraordinary and clever properties, for example a spider can make a very thin and strong material for a spider web. Marleen Kamperman researches the chemical principles of these kind of natural processes and wants to imitate them for smart applications.

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