SoN Building
(C) Kresings, Münster

Soft Nanoscience

Center For Soft Nanoscience (SoN)

In nature, nanoscale building blocks of a cell self-assemble into highly dynamic hierarchical structures, a process that we understand as ‘life’. In particular, this self-assembly comprises a fault-tolerant and modular building process as well as the capability to repair damages, to constantly self-regenerate and finally even to self-reproduce. A precise and at the same time spatio-temporal dynamic arrangement of the single building blocks ensures biological function. Although concepts implementing rather simple functions are already known, today’s synthetic materials are still far away from realizing even partial aspects of the organization and function of natural biological systems. The defined control of this natural functionality in synthetic, biomimetic systems on a nanoscale will be a key competence in future nanoscience. In the long term, it will result in a variety of innovative approaches and ensure a target-orientated drug release, a controlled formation of interacting (cellular) systems and a production of novel functional materials, thus contributing in the conservation of resources. In Science with the few words of “How far can we push chemical self-assembly?” it was emphasized that the potential of self-assembly is one of the greatest scientific challenges of the new century (Science 309 (2005) 95) and postulated the further development of functional materials from nano- to mesoscales (Science 335 (2012) 1167).

The SoN research program aims for the investigation and the understanding of the fundamental preparation processes of biomimetic functional materials according to the molecular “bottom-up” fabrication principle. Regarding that wide range of thematic areas, first SoN’s research focuses on functional 3D nanomaterials as well as addressable (nano)container. The integration of experimental findings and theoretic models is crucial in terms of the understanding on a molecular level as well as the nonlinear processes of self-assembly. The research program itself is organized into two interacting research fields and one field of methods.  

Within the Research field A: Synthesis and self-assembly based on the model of nature soft nanomaterials are prepared in a hierarchical „bottom-up“ construction process using synthetic and natural molecular building blocks (carbohydrates, peptides, lipids, DNA, polymers).
Within the Research field  B: Controllable nanomaterials responsive nanomaterials are produced, that can be regulated in a spatio-temporal manner applying external stimuli and, thus, are accessible for a controlled influence, such as nanocontainer, molecular layer, gels and hybrid materials.

In both research fields procedures of the Method field C: Nanotools are essential to yield assemblies of the required precision, but also for a detailed characterization and understanding of the resulting assembly with regard to its structure and function. From today's perspective, the procedures of the nanofabrication as well as the significance of the nanoanalytics will be further developed. Moreover, together with Münster’s active research for quantitative technological consequences the immune reaction of nanomaterials is investigated and its social impact will be evaluated by the Center for Bioethics. SoN will occupy an international leading position within the research field of “biomimetic nanomaterials”.