Hopkins, who serves as the Whitney Stone Professor of Engineering, partnered with Georgia Tech and a private startup company, Tandem Repeat Proteins, on the project.
Finding Warmth in Squid Tentacles
Researchers are actively seeking materials that can cleanly and safely store and transfer energy, including thermal energy – heat that’s trapped until ready for use.
The end result could be batteries housed in new places, including in the walls of a home.
Hopkins is one of those future-leaning scientists. When the Department of Energy put out a call to develop “green” energy storage solutions that exhibit “variable thermal conductivity” – meaning the heat transfer can be controlled like an on/off switch – he didn’t have to cast about. His ExSiTE Lab (Experiments and Simulations in Thermal Engineering) had already been developing thermal conductivity switches for many years. He knew from experience the potential of squid protein.
In nature, however, this special material isn’t so much about heating as it is about healing.
A squid’s claws, which ring the inside of the suction cups on its tentacles, like teeth at the edges of an unusual mouth, have the amazing ability to repair themselves when broken. The surrounding water helps renew their protein bonds.