The U.S. Department of Defense recently awarded a team of researchers at Yale and the University of Chicago a 5-year, $6.25 million grant to develop new materials inspired by nature.

The group will explore how biomaterials, like groups of cells, respond to environmental factors such as pressure. Learning how to manufacture materials with similar properties could create better tools for healing wounds or building robots.

The grant brings together researchers from a range of specialties, including materials science, biophysics, computational chemistry, and cell biology, and is a uniquely collaborative endeavor, said Martin Schwartz, one of the study’s co-principal investigators and a biomedical engineering professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

“It’s a risky, pie-in-the-sky kind of deal,” Schwartz said of the project’s interdisciplinary nature. “I think it’s a wild idea.”

David Kovar, another co-principal investigator and professor of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago, said that the grant will support new research staff and new equipment capable of exploring materials on the molecular level.

Other Yale co-principal investigators include Enrique De La Cruz, a professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, and Eric Dufresne, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science.