Design of Controllable Bio-Inspired Chiroptic Self-Assemblies

Modulation of chiroptics, chiral phenomena of the optical properties, is pivotal in a variety of advanced applications, including chirality-specific biosensing and photonic switches. One of the most effective methods for achieving this control is assembly of the optical moieties into chiral nanostructures. Lipopeptide self-assemblies have been extensively employed as soft templates to organize composites into low-dimensional superstructures due to their rigidity and ease of functionalization. Therefore, an appealing approach is to provide chiroptical control by using lipopeptide self-assemblies as templates to assemble chromophores. Herein, two lipopeptidic molecules, namely, C14–FFK and C14–FK, composed of phenylalanine and lysine residues conjugated to a myristic acid chain, were custom-designed. Spectroscopic and microscopic characterizations indicated that C14–FFK self-assembled to wide, slightly left-handed nanoribbons, while C14–FK formed narrow, intensely right-handed nanofibers. The different chirality was derived from the distinct self-assembly driving forces, especially the molecular bending dimensions. These superstructures presented an ideal capability to serve as soft templates to assemble porphyrin (ZnTPyP) through noncovalent electrostatic attractive interactions, or assemble the phenolic groups through covalent conjugation to peptide backbones. The distinct exciton coupling of the chromophores allowed their achiral optics to become chiral, showing negative Cotton effect when templated by nanoribbons and positive Cotton effect with nanofibers as templates. Following replacement of the lipopeptides with their d-type enantiomers, the handedness of the superstructures and the associated chiroptics were reversed and presented “mirror” symmetric CD signals to their l-type counterparts. These findings may pave the way to the formation of morphologically and chioptically controllable nanomaterials.