Toward a modular multi-material nanoparticle synthesis and assembly strategy via bionanocombinatorics: bifunctional peptides for linking Au and Ag nanomaterials
Materials-binding peptides represent a unique avenue towards controlling the shape and size of nanoparticles (NPs) grown under aqueous conditions. Here, employing a bionanocombinatorics approach, two such materials-binding peptides were linked at either end of a photoswitchable spacer, forming a multi-domain materials-binding molecule to control the in situ synthesis and organization of Ag and Au NPs under ambient conditions. These multi-domain molecules retained the peptides’ ability to nucleate, grow, and stabilize Ag and Au NPs in aqueous media. Disordered co-assemblies of the two nanomaterials were observed by TEM imaging of dried samples after sequential growth of the two metals, and showed a clustering behavior that was not typically observed without both metals and the linker molecules. While TEM evidence suggested the formation of AuNP/AgNP assemblies upon drying, SAXS analysis indicated that no extended assemblies existed in solution, suggesting that sample drying plays an important role in facilitating NP clustering. Molecular simulations and experimental data revealed tunable materials-binding based upon the isomerization state of the photoswitchable unit and metal employed. This work is a first step in generating externally actuated biomolecules with specific material-binding properties that could be used as the building blocks to achieve multi-material switchable NP assemblies.