Bioinspired & Integrative Science

Science today, though based on the classical disciplines, requires highly multidisciplinary environments, where each member has a unique and distinctive specialization, and a solid foundation on science and humanities to explore new fields and develop new relationships with other disciplines.

In the Fermart Lab we leave behind the traditional concept of science as a group of predetermined branches, developing future science and technology from a holistic approach, where the most important technological and scientific advances rely on several of the so called classical disciplines.

Current Interests

  • Biomaterials
  • Bioinspired Engineering
  • Cell-Surface Interactions
  • Solid State Physics
  • Medical and Tissue Engineering
  • Animal Physiology

The Team

Hemant Kumar Raut

Hemant Kumar Raut

Postdoctoral Fellow

The goal of my multidisciplinary research is to apply structural designs inspired from nature to develop bio-inspired materials. In a broad range of research works (over 16 publications with 1650+ citations), I have demonstrated that bio-inspired hierarchical (micro-/nano-structure) interfaces/surfaces could exhibit multifunctional properties (highlights in Chemical and Engineering News and ScienceDaily). More specifically, in my current research, I am developing color-producing hierarchical structures that ties with my previous research on bio-inspired micro-/nano-structure arrays that could suppress optical reflections. I have also demonstrated that bristles-like hierarchical structures inspired from gecko toepads could help develop adhesive films that could be reused over 200 times. The manufacturing of these complex structures has become possible due to a distinctive nanofabrication technique (SLAN) that I had developed during my doctoral research at NUS Mechanical Engineering. In a recently concluded SUTD-MIT fellowship (2016-18), I have also added another dimension to my work. I have investigated the growth of minerals on interfaces (biomineralization) that has led to the manufacturing of a composite that exhibits unprecedented combination of strength and toughness. Such materials have diverse applications in fields ranging from biomedical to defense, which we are also studying in parallel.
Jyothsna Vasudevan

Jyothsna Vasudevan

SUTD-NUS PhD

Jyothsna joined The Fermart Lab in 2016 as NUS-SUTD PhD fellow. She is passionate about understanding the properties of different types of materials and how they can be applied to the domain of living or biological systems. She completed her Master’s degree from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at The National University of Singapore (NUS). Her thesis focused on understanding the physical and chemical properties of biodegradable polyesters and their applications as protein delivery systems.
Prior to her research stint at NUS, she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from SRM University, Chennai. She worked on the synthesizing and characterizing of Chitosan/Diopside scaffolds and their applications as Bone Tissue Engineering substrates. At The Fermart Lab, she is working towards building in vitro lab on chip platforms to study cell migration and cancer metastasis cascade. Besides her research interests, she loves keeping abreast of the latest trends in innovations and technologies, reading, and learning new languages. She is also an aspiring photographer.
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Rupambika Das

Rupambika Das

PhD

Rupambika joined the Fermart lab as PhD candidate in 2017. She is interested in looking into how the bio-compatible biomaterials along with microfluidic applications can be incorporated to make devices which could be used to study biological aspects in a broader dimension. Coming from a biology background with Masters in Biotechnology the current topic of amalgamating biomaterials and fluid mechanics is an interdisciplinary approach. Additionally, she is specialized in molecular and cell biology techniques, AFM, Micropipette Aspiration, LC-MS, Flow cytometry and Tissue culture. Previous experience of work includes studying the red blood cell biomechanics where the shear modulus is calculated in terms of rigidity of reticulocytes and normocytes in three aspects when infected with Plasmodium falciparum, in diabetic conditions and in presence of oxidative agents.
Ashaa Preyadharishini

Ashaa Preyadharishini

PhD

Ashaa graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and Master’s degree in Nanotechnology from Anna University, India with one year exchange studies done at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. Her master’s thesis was in the production of DNA oligonucleotides and investigating the factors affecting the production at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. She also has experiences of working in the development of biosensors using liposomes at NTU, Singapore and preparation of nanoparticles for delivering oral insulin and human growth hormone at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. After graduation, she joined The Fermart Lab as PhD candidate. Her current research interests are engineering of biomaterials and bio-inspired materials and their applications, bio-sensing.
Ng Shiwei

Ng Shiwei

SUTD-NUS PhD

Shiwei joined the Fermart Lab as PhD candidate in 2018. He graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. His previous work in microfluidics motivated him to look towards natural phenomenon, and nature in general, for potential solutions to the problems we face. His current research interest is focused on the engineering of bio-inspired materials and biomaterials for various application.
Komal Agarwal

Komal Agarwal

PhD

Komal joined the team in December 2019, as a final year PhD student. Her PhD work primarily focuses upon development of impact resistant tough polymer composites (using synthetic materials) with bio-inspired micro-architectural hierarchical design. She loves the process of an idea taking shape into something concrete through lab efforts and the post experiment analysis. She has worked in multi-disciplinary areas to make lab scale materials for various applications.
Her cutting edge research experiences include- Using electrospinning as a 3D printing method to develop complex architectural designs at nano/micro level (specifically bioinspired helicoidal micro-structures); Investing the effect of architectural design, role of interfacial adhesion, surface characteristics within the composite structures; Analysing nanomechanical, thermal, chemical , physical and viscoelastic properties of the polymer composites; Mimicking the spider silk and investigating its fog harvesting capabilities; Making high load bearing sticky adhesive for wall climbing robots, Analysing Glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) composites. She plans to expand her future work by utilizing her fabrication techniques knowledge and learn new clean room fabrication techniques to synthesize piezoelectric materials, tough biomaterial composites with microstructural design, photovoltaic materials, protective clothing, light weight and impact resistant - sport gears, helmets, armours.
She received her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from VTU, India and was awarded Gold medal for highest B.E course average in college. She was awarded with prestigious SUTD PhD scholarship in 2016. She has done three month internship during her PhD at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and has independently collaborated with research groups at SUTD, National university of Singapore (NUS), The Arctic university of Norway (UiT) and La Trobe University, Australia.
Benjamin Ng

Benjamin Ng

MsC

Benjamin graduated from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Product Development. He joined the Fermart Lab shortly after as a student researcher to further his studies under the Master of Engineering in Innovation by Design (MiBD) program in SUTD. One of his undergraduate projects sparked his interest in biomaterials and their viability as a sustainable alternative to conventional materials. His current research interest is in chitosan based organic-inorganic composites and their various applications.
Xu Jing

Xu Jing

Senior Research Assitant

I have a bachelor's degree in Automation and a master's degree in Computer Science. I have some years' experience in Engineering and Robotics. Now I joined the Fermart Lab as a Reserach Assistant in 2020. My current research interests are Material, Robotics, Machine Learning as well as AI methods.
Jian Li

Jian Li

Senior Research Assitant

Jian Li graduated from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Product Development and a Master of Science in Technology Entrepreneurship in 2020. He joined the Fermart Lab in 2020 as a Senior Research Assistant shortly after getting his Masters. His area of interest in research is robotics. Outside of research, he enjoys working on interactive installations and has been part of the Singapore Night Festival for its 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions.
Anupama Prakash

Anupama Prakash

Visiting Researcher

Anupama received her PhD in 2018 from the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Her PhD thesis was on understanding the genetic and developmental basis of wing pattern variations in butterflies. Inspired by the beautifully nanostructured, color producing scales of butterflies and, being passionate about biomimetics and interdisciplinary research, Anupama decided to study biophotonics through a combination of developmental studies and biomaterial engineering. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at NUS, working on single-cell transcriptomics of butterfly wing cells to understand the genetic basis of color development. She joined the Fermart lab in 2019 as a visiting researcher, with the aim of engineering structurally colored biomaterials using bio-inspired templates.
Naomi Chia

Naomi Chia

Research Intern

Naomi joined The Fermart Lab in 2020 as an EPD research intern. She is passionate in using technology to redefine the future of medicine, and making an impact towards healthcare. She is en route to graduating with a Diploma in Biotechnology at Singapore Polytechnic. During her course of study, she did a year-long project where she worked on genetically engineering cells to detect colorectal cancer in the human body. At The Fermart Lab, she is studying cell migration and cancer metastasis cascade using microfluidics. Her interest in science are not just merely biology and chemistry, it extends out to engineering, programming and machine learning as well. Naomi is always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of current processes and she is not afraid to try new things. Outside of research, she enjoys self-learning new skills, reading and being active. She also serves as a senior projectionist at her local church, specialising in graphics design, and video editing. Linkedin Profile

The Fermart Lab is a multidisciplinary environment of extremely talented and motivated researchers. They form an exceptionally creative and collaborative team, offering great flexibility and opportunities for innovation. Here, researchers from very different cultural and scientific backgrounds, join forces to develop the latest scientific advances and technological applications across disciplines.

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Alumni

Naresh Sanandiya (Postdoctoral Researcher). LinkedIn

Project Title: “Composites for Additive Manufacturing”

Hemant Raut (Postdoctoral Researcher). LinkedIn

Project Title: “Bio-inspired Composites for Biomedical Implants

Yadunund Vijay (Master Student) SUTD 2018 Best MsC award. LinkedIn

Thesis Title: “Development and Optimization of a Sustainable, Large-scale & Rapid Additive Manufacturing Process using Natural Materials

Undergraduate and Summer Students

Sarah Maheen Siddiqui (Lehigh University, USA)

Project Title: “3D Printing Chitosan for Potential Applications in Tissue Regeneration

Lieu Wei Ying (Y2017-Freshmore) & Mason Petra Agung (Y2017-Freshmore)

Project Title: “Mussel-inspired biopolymer hydrogel for wet adhesion

Denise Chia (Y2014-EPD)

Project Title: “The role of polymer alignment in structural biomaterials

Research Projects

  • Fungus-like Additive Materials

    Large-scale manufacture with biological materials

    Cellulose is the most abundant and broadly distributed organic compound and industrial by-product on Earth. Yet, despite decades of extensive research, the bottom-up use of cellulose to fabricate 3D objects is still plagued with problems that restrict its practical applications: derivatives with vast polluting effects, used in combination with plastics, lack of scalability and high production cost.

    We have demonstrated the use of cellulose to sustainably manufacture/fabricate large 3D objects. Our approach diverges from the common association of cellulose with green plants and is inspired by the wall of the fungus-like oomycetes, which is reproduced introducing small amounts of chitin between cellulose fibers. The resulting fungal-like adhesive material(s) (FLAM) are strong, lightweight and inexpensive, and can be molded or processed using woodworking techniques. This material is completely ecologically sustainable as no organic solvents or synthetic plastics were used to manufacture it. It is scalable and can be reproduced anywhere without specialised facilities. FLAM is also fully biodegradable in natural conditions and outside composting facilities. The cost of FLAM is in the range of commodity plastics and 10 times lower than the cost of common filaments for 3D printing, such as PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), making it not only more sustainable but also a more cost-effective substitute.

    This first large-scale additive manufacturing process with the most ubiquitous biological polymers on earth will be the catalyst for the transition to environmentally benign and circular manufacturing models, where materials are produced, used, and degraded in closed regional systems. This reproduction and manufacturing with the material composition found in the oomycete wall, namely unmodified cellulose, small amounts of chitosan –the second most abundant organic molecule on earth — and low concentrated acetic acid, is probably one of the most successful technological achievements in the field of bioinspired materials.

  • Shrilk family of materials

    Man-made Natural Materials

    Plastics production has increased from 0.5 to 380 million tons per year since 1950. The increasing use of plastics, which in most cases are prepared by polymerization of monomers derived from a nonrenewable source, creates major waste management and environmental problems. Most of the plastic produced is used to make disposable items or other short-lived products that are discarded within a year of manufacture. These objects account for approximately 30 percent of the waste we generate, which accumulates in landfills or contaminates large areas of marine habitats – from remote shorelines and heavily populated coastlines to areas of the deep sea that were previously thought to be virtually inaccessible. These factors highlight the unsustainability of the current use of plastics, which is driving a growing interest in biomaterials that are fully biodegradable and recyclable.

    At the Fermart lab we are developing the next generation of materials for sustainable development. Our first version of “Shrilk”, based on the chemistry and molecular design of the insect cuticle, is transparent, biodegradable, and has an ultimate strength in the same range as aluminum alloys, but at half their density. It is made of silk proteins and waste material from the fishing industry (i.e. chitin). Seafood processing factories generate over 250 billion tons of chitin biopolymer that is typically dumped back into the ocean, negatively affecting coastal ecosystems.

    Shrilk represents a groundbreaking approach to sustainable development. It is based on the association of natural components and their molecular design as a sole entity. We demonstrated how structural natural materials with engineering relevance, are only achievable by controlling both characteristics and their relation. This approach, linking together manufacture, biological design, and biomolecules, has started a complete new approach to sustainable and bioinspired materials.

    Shrilk is considered one of the most important advancements for sustainable development in the last decade. It has been reviewed by the most prominent media outlets around the world, and has been referred as “one of the materials that will change the future of manufacturing” (Scientific American), as a “Supermaterial” (National Geographic) and as “the material that will save the world” (BBC).

  • Biomaterials for Medicine

    Biomaterials for tissue engineering and biomedicine

    Biomaterials are used in medical devices or in contact with biological systems. Biomaterials as a field has seen steady growth over its approximately half century of existence and is highly multidisciplinary, as it merges medicine, biology, chemistry, materials science and engineering. While biomaterials were traditionally designed to be inert in a biological environment, new biomaterials capable of triggering specific biological responses at the tissue/material interface have been reaching clinical application.

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