Chun-Xia Zhao1*, David Wibowo1, Yue Hui1, Guangze Yang1, Anton P.J. Middelberg1,2


1. Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.
2. Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


Nature provides us with a wide range of sophisticated nanomachines that serve as a source of building blocks for various functional materials. For example, diatoms and marine sponges use self-assembled biomolecules (proteins or peptides) as templates to create hierarchical organic-inorganic architectures with precisely controlled structure, size, orientation and composition, which has been considered as a paradigm for biomolecule-controlled self-assembly of hierarchical materials. Mimicking these functions of biomolecules provide the opportunity to develop various functional materials for different applications. In the past years, we have designed a variety of surface-active peptides or proteins for stimuli-responsive soft materials. These biomolecules can be designed to have different structures, different charges thus having different responsive behaviours. To incorporate more functions, modular peptides or proteins have also been designed with two different functions by modularizing one sequence with surface activity and another sequence with other functions, such as biosilicification, antimicrobial activity. Based on the bifunctional peptides or proteins (surface activity and biosilicification activity), oil-core silica-shell nanocapsules can be produced under room temperature, neutral pH and without use of any toxic reagents. These nanocapsules have been successfully used for controlled release. To make it viable for real applications, we developed a facile, cost-effective and scalable method for producing these biomolecules. This modular design approach fundamentally opens facile and environmentally friendly strategy for fabricating various functional materials.


Dr Chun-Xia Zhao is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow and Associate group leader at Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland, Australia. She leads a research team with a focus on bio-inspired engineering and microfluidics. She has been focusing on innovative research as evidenced by her four patents. Dr Zhao’s research has attracted more than $2.5 M in research funding since 2011, including four Australian Research Council projects as the lead investigator, two national prestigious fellowship, and six UQ grants. Dr Zhao has been recognised for scientific excellence with a 2016 UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award. She has built extensive collaborations with scientists at top universities such as Harvard University, Cornell University, etc. She was invited to visit Harvard University as a Fellow of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She also serves as the Editor-in-Chief, Editorial Board member for several journals.



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