Issue 12, 2021

Engineering bio-inspired peptide–polyurea hybrids with thermo-responsive shape memory behaviour

Abstract

Inspired by Nature's tunability driven by the modulation of structural organization, we utilize peptide motifs as an approach to tailor not only hierarchical structure, but also thermo-responsive shape memory properties of conventional polymeric materials. Specifically, poly(β-benzyl-L-aspartate)-b-poly(dimethylsiloxane)-b-poly(β-benzyl-L-aspartate) was incorporated as the soft segment in peptide–polyurea hybrids to manipulate hierarchical ordering through peptide secondary structure and a balance of inter- and intra-molecular hydrogen bonding. Employing these bioinspired peptidic polyureas, we investigated the influence of secondary structure on microphase-separated morphology, and shape fixity and recovery via attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA). The β-sheet motifs promoted phase mixing through extensive inter-molecular hydrogen bonding between the hard block and peptide segments and provided an increased chain elasticity, resulting in decreased shape fixity compared to a non-peptidic control. In contrast, intra-molecular hydrogen bonding driven by the α-helical arrangements yielded a microphase-separated and hierarchically ordered morphology, leading to an increase in the shape fixing ratio. These results indicate that peptide secondary structure provides a convenient handle for tuning shape memory properties by regulating hydrogen bonding with the surrounding polyurea hard segment, wherein extent of hydrogen bonding and phase mixing between the peptidic block and hard segment dictate the resulting shape memory behaviour. Furthermore, the ability to shift secondary structure as a function of temperature also was demonstrated as a pathway to influence shape memory response. This research highlights that peptide secondary conformation influences the hierarchical ordering and modulates the shape memory response of peptide–polymer hybrids. We anticipate that these findings will enable the design of smart bio-inspired materials with responsive and tailored function via a balance of hydrogen bonding character, structural organization, and mechanics.

Graphical abstract: Engineering bio-inspired peptide–polyurea hybrids with thermo-responsive shape memory behaviour

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
Paper
Submitted
02 May 2021
Accepted
09 Jul 2021
First published
20 Jul 2021

Mol. Syst. Des. Eng., 2021,6, 1003-1015

Engineering bio-inspired peptide–polyurea hybrids with thermo-responsive shape memory behaviour

D. Jang, C. B. Thompson, S. Chatterjee and L. T. J. Korley, Mol. Syst. Des. Eng., 2021, 6, 1003 DOI: 10.1039/D1ME00043H

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