Bio-Systems: From Molecules to Networks

  • The term "bio-systems" is used here as an abbreviation for "biomimetic and biological systems". All bio-systems are built up from the same kind of building blocks. In fact, these building blocks or modules form a whole hierarchy of structures that cover a wide range of length and time scales.

  • The fundamental levels of this structural hierarchy are found in the colloidal regime between nanometers and micrometers: aqueous solutions, i.e., water and ions, small water-soluble molecules or monomers, macromolecules, supramolecular assemblies, nanostructures, and molecular networks. This regime is particularly interesting because it contains the transition zone between matter and life. Indeed, macromolecules and small supramolecular assemblies are dead objects but somewhat larger assemblies lead to bacteria and, thus, to the simplest living organisms.

  • In order to understand the general principles and mechanisms that underlie the complex and dynamic architectures of bio-systems, one has to construct biomimetic model systems that are accessible to both experimental and theoretical studies. This bottom-up approach is complementary to the holistic approach of "systems biology" as currently emphasized in the life sciences.

  • One general and unusual aspect of bio-systems is their selforganization, i.e., the ability of their molecular building blocks to form larger structures "by themselves". This selforganization starts in the experimental twilight zone of nanometers and nanoseconds and proceeds over many length and time scales that cannot be observed by direct imaging methods. Two fundamental mechanisms underlying these "hidden dimensions of selforganization" are self-assembly of building blocks via attractive and repulsive molecular interactions as well as force generation and transport via chemomechanical coupling.

  • Our research focuses on molecular motors and nanomachines , semi-flexible polymers and filaments , as well as membranes and vesicles .

    Additional research topics are interfacial phenomena , critical behavior of lines and surfaces , as well as dynamics on networks .