Nature serves as a model for developing new concepts and strategies in the engineering of materials. The “biomimetic” approach defines a field of research at the intersection between biotechnology and materials. Becoming skilled in the procedural knowledge of certain living systems and the transcription of construction rules and modes will enable the design of new materials or materials that offer higher performance than the conventional materials and systems. Understanding and scrutinizing the formation process, the construction rules and modes for biological objects, the controlling of chemical and physico-chemical links to interfaces, as well as the shape and compacting of nanoparticles are among the research objectives that will allow materials (structural, functional, etc.) to be improved.
Once again “soft chemistry” – with its reactions at ambient temperature and when dissolved, compatible with the presence of inorganic, organic or biological constituents, and its ease of shaping – has proven to be indispensable in developing a biomimetic approach to materials. Even though research in this field is still exploratory, several courses of synthesis are currently used :
- Through "transcription", using molecular, supramolecular or macromolecular templates in order to use structuring moulds,
- Through “synergy assembly”; in this case, the precursors and texturing agents (the templates) are co-assembled in situ, in organised architectures,
- Through “morpho-synthesis” by using chemical transformations in confined geometries (micro-emulsions, micelles, vesicles, etc.) to prepare materials with complex shapes.
A better understanding of the mechanisms of formation will enable original and customised nanomaterials to be designed in fields as varied as linear and non-linear optics, magnetism, catalysis and photo-catalysis, or cosmetics.