Laboratory for Synthetic Autonomous Matter

Our Goal

Our goal is to design and fabricate new materials that can make decisions and can develop functions autonomously!

Towards this goal, we will build on and accelerate academic and industrial developments within supramolecular and systems chemistry, active and soft matter physics, materials engineering, bio-nanotechnology and developmental biology.

We believe that the identification, reinterpretation, and translation of design principles from embryonal development into new synthetic systems will enable materials to independently make decisions, coordinate their action, and ultimately develop (differentiate, morph, and grow).

The Lerch Research Group is located at the Stratingh Institute at the University of Groningen and is part of ARC CBBC*.

Linneausborg, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Photo by Michael M. Lerch, Summer 2021.

How we reach our goal

Self-regulation is fundamental to life; think of biological processes that allow us to maintain body temperature, regulate hormones, uphold our day-and-night rhythm, or orchestrate our development from a single cell to a fully developed embryo. In our material world we know self-regulation from thermostats and smart homes to devices controlling flight stabilization in drones and traffic fluxes in cities. These devices make our world safer and extend the life time of our appliances and machines. They are, however, themselves built from materials that show little to no material-based self-regulation, that is the ability to adjust their internal chemistry, mechanics, or optical properties without electronic control. In our research program, we take inspiration from biological organisms and design materials with the ability to self-regulate their functions, which we hope will make materials more reliable, sustainable, and useful. Towards this end, we:

  1. recreate embryonal development in synthetic materials,
  2. study chemical communication between different materials, and
  3. create smart coatings for houses, tools, and sport equipment.

Become Part of Our Team!

* In the Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC), founded in 2016, the companies AkzoNobel, BASF, Nouryon and Shell and the universities of Eindhoven, Groningen and Utrecht are working with the support of the Dutch government and scientists from other academic institutions on far-reaching research to find solutions to counteract greenhouse gas emissions and create a sustainable society.

Sharing a common vision of sustainability, our new generation of scientific talent aims to build the chemistry for the future.