The second half of the 20th century has witnessed a productive interplay between chemistry and materials science—in fields as varied as polymers, catalysis, interface science, ceramics, and electronic materials. Society also has enjoyed the spectacular results-most notably in information and communications technologies—achieved by merging condensed matter physics and materials research. In contrast, connections between materials science and biology have been relatively weak. To be sure, materials research has made important contributions to medicine, but the discipline has yet to draw on biology in the same way that it has absorbed people, ideas, and skills from chemistry and physics. This is beginning to change. With increasing frequency, new materials or processing strategies are emerging, inspired by biological examples or developed directly from biological systems. Already, researchers are engineering bacteria or other organisms to synthesize monomers for polymer production. They are synthesizing and expressing artificial genes to produce proteinlike materials with the mechanical properties of silk, collagen, or other materials containing elastic fibers. They are beginning to use phospholipids as templates for electronic materials; make synthetic phospholipid vesicles that, like proteins, respond to signals; use stereoselective catalyses to produce optically active polymers from racernic starting materials; and develop protein- and lipid-based sensors. Chemists are playing a vital role in these developments, providing synthetic skills as well as insights into the behavior of complex molecular systems.
Copyright © 1994 AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY. Publication Date: December 19, 1994.