Thursday, April 4, 2013
106 Spalding Lab, Hartley Memorial Seminar Room
Chemical Engineering Seminar
Blood clotting-inspired polymer physics
Alfredo Alexander-Katz, Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nature has devised creative and efficient ways of solving complex problems, and one of these problems is that of blood clotting in flowing conditions. In fact, nature has used a novel combination of polymer physics and chemistry that enhances the self-healing propensity of a vessel when strong flows are present while avoiding coagulation when the flow is dimished, a rather counter-intuitive phenomenon. Underlying this process is a biopolymer, the so-called von Willebrand Factor, whose function is strongly regulated by flow. In this talk I will present our work on this macromolecule starting from the single molecule approach and building up to the multi-component system that more closely resembles blood. I will emphasize how new concepts have emerged from trying to understand such a complex system, in particular I will show how these single polymers display never before seen giant non-monotonic response to shear, as well as a very large propensity to form polymer-colloid composites in flow while being a stable dispersed suspension in quiescent conditions. In fact, the aggregation behavior is universal and can be explained with simple scaling arguments. These novel concepts and results are in principle not unique to blood clotting and can have important ramifications in other areas such as self-healing materials, coatings and printing, or drug delivery.