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Materials

Supramolecular Polymerization

by Stu Borman
August 15, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 33

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Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.
Peptide-based comb polymer (yellow and red sphere) assembles into a supramolecular tube, which then twists helically.
08933-scicon-supra.jpg
Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.
Peptide-based comb polymer (yellow and red sphere) assembles into a supramolecular tube, which then twists helically.

In work that could lead to light materials with high mechanical strength, researchers have assembled large peptide-based polymers into a new family of giant hydrogen-bonded supramolecules. Supramolecular polymers such as actins and tubulins, made biosynthetically from proteins, have great material strength and stability, but success in creating such materials synthetically has been limited. Yao Lin of the University of Connecticut; Jianjun Cheng of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and coworkers have now synthesized peptide-grafted comb polymers and have assembled them into supramolecular polymers (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja202268t). The supramolecules form tubes that wind into helices. The researchers also formed similar supramolecules from gold nanoparticles decorated with the same peptides. The hydrogen-bonding network that holds the supramolecules together, plus the materials’ tubular morphology, suggests that they could be strong and light. “The work is an important step toward precise control over the dimension and shape of stable supramolecular polymers made of large macromolecules, which often proves to be challenging,” comments Honggang Cui of Johns Hopkins University.

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