Material from Northwestern University is a hydrogel that self-assembles utilizing the strong noncovalent interactions between its molecules.


  • Reversible
  • Biocompatible
  • Tunable


  • Medical treatment
  • Robotics
  • Drug delivery

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Many materials have a static set of properties that do not change throughout their usable life. Dynamic materials that can change their properties could open the door for novel inventions in many applications.

Innovation Details

The material is composed of molecules made of peptides and other molecules made of peptides and DNA. When mixed together, they form water-soluble nanoscale filaments that then form a soft hydrogel. This hydrogel becomes stiffer as hierarchical superstructures form. When a DNA molecule is added, it disrupts the interconnected filaments, and the structure returns back to its softer state. The material can reorganize on-demand to dynamically change its properties.

Biomimicry Story

Capsids, the containers that house viral DNA, are stable, self‑assembling structures made of s. Their stability is due to the net strength that arises from weak attractive and repulsive forces that depend on the relative position of the proteins. The weak forces include attraction or repulsion between electrostatic charges, water solubility, and constituent structures in various parts of the capsid.