Biomimetic Hierarchical Assembly of Helical Supraparticles from Chiral Nanoparticles

Chiroptical materials found in butterflies, beetles, stomatopod crustaceans, and other creatures are attributed to biocomposites with helical motifs and multiscale hierarchical organization. These structurally sophisticated materials self-assemble from primitive nanoscale building blocks, a process that is simpler and more energy efficient than many top-down methods currently used to produce similarly sized three-dimensional materials. Here, we report that molecular-scale chirality of a CdTe nanoparticle surface can be translated to nanoscale helical assemblies, leading to chiroptical activity in the visible electromagnetic range. Chiral CdTe nanoparticles coated with cysteine self-organize around Te cores to produce helical supraparticles. d<i>-/</i>l<i>-</i>Form of the amino acid determines the dominant left/right helicity of the supraparticles. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations with a helical pair-potential confirm the assembly mechanism and the origin of its enantioselectivity, providing a framework for engineering three-dimensional chiral materials by self-assembly. The helical supraparticles further self-organize into lamellar crystals with liquid crystalline order, demonstrating the possibility of hierarchical organization and with multiple structural motifs and length scales determined by molecular-scale asymmetry of nanoparticle interactions.