The role of surface science in bioengineered materials

Matthew Tirrell, Efrosini Kokkoli, Markus Biesalski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

406 Scopus citations


Materials employed in biomedical technology are increasingly being designed to have specific, desirable biological interactions with their surroundings, rather than the older common practice of trying to adapt traditional materials to biomedical applications. Moreover, materials scientists are also increasingly deriving new lessons from naturally occurring materials (from mollusk shells to soft animal tissue) about useful composition-structure property relationships that might be mimicked with synthetic materials. Together, these two areas of effort constitute what we may call bioengineered materials. It is possible to set down a reasonably thorough set of characteristics that bioengineered materials have in common. Among these characteristics we discuss the following: self-assembly, bioengineered materials often rely on information content built into structural molecules to determine the order and organization of the material; hierarchical structure, in most bioengineered materials several different length scales of structure are essential and are formed spontaneously and simultaneously via self-assembly; precision synthesis, fundamental to biological material structures is the idea of macromolecules constructed in a precise manner; templating, ordered structures in bioengineered materials are often propagated from one element or set of instructions, to another; specific and non-specific interactions, the forces involved in holding biomaterials structures together. In the future, a carefully selected combination of this set of characteristics will enable us to bioengineer surfaces that are capable to direct and control a desired biological response. Eventually, such bioengineered surfaces will become important tools to comprehend and analyze how materials interact in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-83
Number of pages23
JournalSurface Science
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 10 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Peter Allen at the Office of the Dean of Engineering––Publication Department for valuable assistance with the graphic design of the figures. Financial support by the Materials Research Laboratory Program of the National Science Foundation under Award DMR00-80034 is gratefully acknowledged. M.B. likes to thank the German National Science Foundation (DFG) for a fellowship within the “Emmy-Noether-Program”.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adhesion
  • Biological compounds
  • Chemisorption
  • Self-assembly
  • Surface chemical reaction


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