Biologically Tunable Reactivity of Energetic Nanomaterials Using Protein Cages

The performance of aluminum nanomaterial based energetic formulations is dependent on the mass transport, diffusion distance, and stability of reactive components. Here we use a biologically inspired approach to direct the assembly of oxidizer loaded protein cages onto the surface of aluminum nanoparticles to improve reaction kinetics by reducing the diffusion distance between the reactants. Ferritin protein cages were loaded with ammonium perchlorate (AP) or iron oxide and assembled with nAl to create an oxidation–reduction based energetic reaction and the first demonstration of a nanoscale biobased thermite material. Both materials showed enhanced exothermic behavior in comparison to nanothermite mixtures of bulk free AP or synthesized iron oxide nanopowders prepared without the use of ferritin. In addition, by utilizing a layer-by-layer (LbL) process to build multiple layers of protein cages containing iron oxide and iron oxide/AP on nAl, stoichiometric conditions and energetic performance can be optimized.