The group

Threads produced by velvet worms are remarkably sticky and stiff; the beak of a jumbo squid is extremely hard; and spider silk is incredibly tough. The extraordinary material properties found in many natural systems inspire us to develop materials using natural design strategies. Recently, biologists discovered that a crucial element in the processing of many of these natural materials are coacervates, which are concentrated macromolecular phases that form upon liquid liquid phase separation from the initial solution. The macromolecules that form coacervates are often polyelectrolytes, charged polymers. It seems that the liquid coacervate phases enable processing of the material and allow for conformational changes within the material before solidification. Thus, the coacervate nature plays an important role for obtaining the extraordinary properties in these natural materials. In our group we mimic this environmentally benign processing and develop new synthetic materials often based on polyelectrolytes.