Nature’s molecular machines: a materials science approach

20 Apr
Applied Physics Colloquia
Giovanni Zocchi, UCLA
Friday, April 20, 2018 -
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Pierce 209

Living matter, at the molecular scale, is different from usual matter. Biological molecules, specifically enzymes, deform without breaking, couple chemical reactions to molecular tasks. Nature’s molecular machines are not scaled down versions of macroscopic machines; for example, molecular motors have nothing to do with Carnot cycles. Instead, their extraordinary capabilities are founded in their materials properties. I will describe our advances in extracting universal mechanical properties of enzymes, and come to the surprising conclusion that the molecules of life are viscoelastic ! Enzymes “flow” from one solid – like conformation to another. As it turns out, the molecules we are made of behave dynamically like “silly putty”.

Another universal conclusion is that any enzyme can be controlled mechanically, opening artificial mechanical control for thousands of chemical reactions.

Doeke Hekstra
Linn Song