We discuss recent research efforts towards understanding and implementing the physical rules needed to make materials—especially materials composed of nanoscale building blocks—that exhibit the defining characteristics of living systems: adaptive and evolving functional behavior. In particular, we highlight advancements in direct imaging and quantifying of kinetic pathways governing structural reconfiguration in model systems of colloidal nanoparticles as well as emerging opportunities brought by frontier efforts in synthesizing shape-shifting colloids and flexible electronics. Direct observation of kinetic “crossroads” in nanoparticle self-assembly and reconfiguration will offer insight into how these steps can be manipulated to design dynamic, potentially novel materials and devices. Moreover, these principles will not be limited to nanoparticles; when extended to building blocks like soft micelles and proteins, they have the potential to have a similar impact throughout the broader field of soft matter physics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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