Mesa+ Meeting

Research Area Sessions

1Advanced materials & devices, chaired by Floris Zwanenburg & Gertjan Koster

2Fluidics & microsystems, chaired by Mathieu Odijk & dr. David Fernandez Rivas

3Photonics & (bio)systems, chaired by Annemarie Huijser & prof.dr. Pepijn Pinkse

4Soft matter & devices, chaired by dr. Saskia Lindhoud & dr. Tibor Kudernac

Soft matter & devices (ROOM 8)

Chairs: dr. Saskia Lindhoud (NBP) & dr. Tibor Kudernac (MNF)


Soft Matter comprises a wide variety of states that are easily deformable, including: fluids, polymers, colloids, and gels. This gives Soft Matter peculiar properties, such as various types of responsive behaviours and the ability to self-assemble into complex structures. Within MESA+ many groups research Soft Matter fundamentals or utilize these materials as a basis for their approaches to nanotechnology.

The Soft Matter and Devices Research Area aims to bring together the excellent work performed within MESA+, where Nanotechnology and Devices are based on Soft Matter. This focus area is coupled to the monthly Soft Matter+ colloquium series, organized by a team of Postdocs and Tenure Trackers from various research groups. This session will show a variety of very promising and recent work at MESA+ regarding Soft Matter and Devices. Bionanotechnology will be the central theme of this session. We will discuss devices for biomacromolecule detection, how biomacromolecules inspire us to create new devices and how biomacromolecules can be used to make devices.



Short introduction by Saskia Lindhoud/Tibor Kudernac


Jacopo Movilli (MNF)

Engineering Monolayers For Ultrasensitive DNA Detection


Federico Lancia (BNT)

Photo-stiffening of biomimetic soft springs


Patrick de Wit (FIF)

Sodium alginate gels as sacrificial template for high performance

inorganic porous hollow fibers


Amin Abolghassemi Fakhree (NBP)

Vesiculation by α-Synuclein on lipid membranes


Engineering Monolayers For Ultrasensitive DNA Detection
Jacopo Movilli (Molecular NanoFabrication)

Early stage cancer detection can drastically reduce mortality. For colorectal cancer (CRC), if tumor is detected and treated early enough, approximately 50-60% of patients are fully cured. Therefore, the development of a fast, in-vitro diagnostic system could have a great impact on cancer detection and treatment efficiency.

A non-invasive technology based on affordable molecular analysis of peripheral blood (liquid biopsy) is highly desirable. However, low concentration of cancer biomarkers in blood as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), overall test costs and possible contaminations still impose a stringent barrier to the wide applicability of liquid biopsy for CRC diagnosis. Here, we present our initial results toward the formation of a bio-recognition layer on gold for the so-called NESPRI (SPR-based technique), in order to achieve an unprecedented ultrasensitive detection of ctDNA. The use of this innovative optical analytical technique, which takes advantage of plasmonic-metallic nanostructures, can advance the state-of-art of ctDNA biomarker detection.

Selectivity will be reached using specific sequences of PNA, able to discriminate single point mutations in DNA and to reduce the occurrence of false-positives. An antifouling layer and the subsequent sandwich assay with NPs bearing oligonucleotides complementary to target ctDNA will maximize the selectivity and sensitivity in the SPR-based recognition step.

Photo-stiffening of biomimetic soft springs
Federico Lancia (BioNanoTechnology)

Recent advances in soft robotics have seen a paradigm shift from engineering shape morphing to encode adaptive mechanical response directly into materials. Nature can be an incredible source of inspiration for designing materials with complex non-linear mechanical behavior. This non-linearity is often achieved through helical motifs of biopolymers and their hierarchical self-assembly into fibers.

Here, taking inspiration from plants, we design photo-responsive springs made out of liquid crystal polymer network. These soft biomimetic springs display complex movement and their non-linear mechanical response can be tuned upon UV irradiation. We show how, taking inspiration from biological concepts we can control stiffness using light, thus paving the way towards light-driven soft robotics.

Sodium alginate gels as sacrificial template for high performance inorganic porous hollow fibers
Patrick de Wit (Films in Fluids)

This work presents a method for the fabrication of inorganic porous hollow fibers, using sodium alginate gels as sacrificial template. The method is based on ionic cross-linking of an aqueous mixture of sodium alginate, inorganic particles, and a carbonate salt. The mixture is spun into an acidic coagulation bath, where the low pH triggers the dissociation of the carbonate into multivalent cations and carbon dioxide. The multivalent cations cross-link the alginate, thereby consolidating the 3D structure and arresting the inorganic particles. In a subsequent thermal treatment the polymer is removed and the particles are sintered together. Adequate gelation requires a sufficiently low pH of the acid bath and a sufficing buffering capacity of the acid. In addition, to facilitate thermal treatment, it appears to be crucial that the acid has a conjugated base with limited propensity for complexing cations. The environmentally-safe and sustainable lactic acid and acetic acid are shown to be convenient acids. The fibers prepared via our method have outstanding properties, such as high mechanical strength, homogeneous morphology, and sharp distribution of small pores. In addition, they are prepared using sustainable chemicals such as lactic acid and calcium carbonate.

Vesiculation by α-Synuclein on lipid membranes
Amin Abolghassemi Fakhree (NanoBioPhysics)

Although it is well established that the protein α-synuclein (αS) plays an important role in Parkinson’s disease, its physiological function remains largely unknown. It has been reported to bind membranes and to play a role in membrane remodeling processes. The mechanism by which αS remodels membranes is still debated; it may either affect its physical properties or act as a chaperone for other membrane associated proteins.

To obtain insight into the role of αS in membrane remodeling we investigated the number of αS proteins associated with single small vesicles in a neuronal cell model. Using single-molecule microscopy and photo-bleaching approaches, we most frequently found 70 αS-GFPs per vesicle. Although this number is high enough to modulate physical membrane properties, it is also strikingly similar to the number of synaptobrevins, a putative interaction partner of αS, per vesicle. We therefore hypothesize a dual synergistic role for αS in membrane remodeling acting both as a modulator of the membrane’s physical properties and interaction partner for synaptobrevin.