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Metal-Tunable Self-Assembly of Hierarchical Structure in Mussel-Inspired Peptide Films

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-31, 00:00 authored by Franziska Jehle, Peter Fratzl, Matthew J. Harrington
Bottom-up control over structural hierarchy from the nanoscale through the macroscale is a critical aspect of biological materials fabrication and function, which can inspire production of advanced materials. Mussel byssal threads are a prime example of protein-based biofibers in which hierarchical organization of protein building blocks coupled via metal complexation leads to notable mechanical behaviors, such as high toughness and self-healing. Using a natural amino acid sequence from byssal thread proteins, which functions as a pH-triggered self-assembly point, we created free-standing peptide films with complex hierarchical organization across multiple length scales that can be controlled by inclusion of metal ions (Zn2+ and Cu2+) during the assembly process. Additionally, analysis of film mechanical performance indicates that metal coordination bestows up to an order of magnitude increase in material stiffness, providing a paradigm for creating tunable polymeric materials with multiscale organizational structure.