MMEC Seminar - Growing structural proteins into advanced materials for food security.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 4:00pm
Dr. Benedetto Marelli
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Applications of robotics and sensing technologies, big data analysis and biotechnology in farming, plant and food science are highly sought to guarantee global food security while mitigating the environmental impact of agriculture. In this scenario, the potential benefit of applying materials science principles to enhance food security remains underexplored when compared to material- based research efforts in biomedicine, energy and optoelectronics. In this seminar, we highlight recent development in the nanomanufacturing of structural proteins to engineer a new generation of advanced materials that can be interfaced with food and plants. We will present newly developed techniques to direct the assembly of structural proteins into nanostructured materials that can serve as: edible coatings to prolong the shelf-life of perishable food, microenvironments to boost seed germination in saline soil and injectors to deliver payloads in plant vasculature. These examples will provide an opportunity to discuss how the establishment of a successful interface between biomaterials and plants tissues requires the development of a basic scientific knowledge on: mechanics of disorder to order transitions in proteinaceous materials during condensation phenomena, fluid mechanics and transport phenomena in plants vasculature, and swelling of porous materials exposed to plant fluids.
Biography Benedetto Marelli is the Paul M. Cook Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received a B.Eng. and a M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering from Politecnico di Milano in 2005 and 2008 and a PhD in Materials Science from McGill University in 2012. After a Postdoc in the Silklab at Tufts University, Benedetto joined the MIT Faculty in November 2015. At MIT, the Marelli research group works in the area of structural biopolymers and nanomanufacturing. By using biofabrication strategies that integrate bottom-up and top-down techniques, the research efforts are focused on the design of materials that act at the biotic/abiotic interface with applications in precision agriculture and food security. Benedetto has recently received several awards, including PECASE, NSF CAREER, ONR Young Investigator Award and ONR Director of Research Award.