Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International



Home > Press > Harvesting light like nature does:Synthesizing a new class of bio-inspired, light-capturing nanomaterials

POSS-peptoid molecules self-assemble into rhomboid-shaped nanocrystals.

CREDIT
(Illustration by Stephanie King | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
POSS-peptoid molecules self-assemble into rhomboid-shaped nanocrystals. CREDIT (Illustration by Stephanie King | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Abstract:
Inspired by nature, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), along with collaborators from Washington State University, created a novel material capable of capturing light energy. This material provides a highly efficient artificial light-harvesting system with potential applications in photovoltaics and bioimaging.

Harvesting light like nature does:Synthesizing a new class of bio-inspired, light-capturing nanomaterials

Richland, WA | Posted on May 14th, 2021

The research provides a foundation for overcoming the difficult challenges involved in the creation of hierarchical functional organic-inorganic hybrid materials. Nature provides beautiful examples of hierarchically structured hybrid materials such as bones and teeth. These materials typically showcase a precise atomic arrangement that allows them to achieve many exceptional properties, such as increased strength and toughness.

PNNL materials scientist Chun-Long Chen, corresponding author of this study, and his collaborators created a new material that reflects the structural and functional complexity of natural hybrid materials. This material combines the programmability of a protein-like synthetic molecule with the complexity of a silicate-based nanocluster to create a new class of highly robust nanocrystals. They then programmed this 2D hybrid material to create a highly efficient artificial light-harvesting system.

"The sun is the most important energy source we have," said Chen. "We wanted to see if we could program our hybrid nanocrystals to harvest light energy--much like natural plants and photosynthetic bacteria can--while achieving a high robustness and processibility seen in synthetic systems." The results of this study were published May 14, 2021, in Science Advances.

Big dreams, tiny crystals

Though these types of hierarchically structured materials are exceptionally difficult to create, Chen's multidisciplinary team of scientists combined their expert knowledge to synthesize a sequence-defined molecule capable of forming such an arrangement. The researchers created an altered protein-like structure, called a peptoid, and attached a precise silicate-based cage-like structure (abbreviated POSS) to one end of it. They then found that, under the right conditions, they could induce these molecules to self-assemble into perfectly shaped crystals of 2D nanosheets. This created another layer of cell-membrane-like complexity similar to that seen in natural hierarchical structures while retaining the high stability and enhanced mechanical properties of the individual molecules.

"As a materials scientist, nature provides me with a lot of inspiration" said Chen. "Whenever I want to design a molecule to do something specific, such as act as a drug delivery vehicle, I can almost always find a natural example to model my designs after."

Designing bio-inspired materials

Once the team successfully created these POSS-peptoid nanocrystals and demonstrated their unique properties including high programmability, they then set out to exploit these properties. They programmed the material to include special functional groups at specific locations and intermolecular distances. Because these nanocrystals combine the strength and stability of POSS with the variability of the peptoid building block, the programming possibilities were endless.

Once again looking to nature for inspiration, the scientists created a system that could capture light energy much in the way pigments found in plants do. They added pairs of special "donor" molecules and cage-like structures that could bind an "acceptor" molecule at precise locations within the nanocrystal. The donor molecules absorb light at a specific wavelength and transfer the light energy to the acceptor molecules. The acceptor molecules then emit light at a different wavelength. This newly created system displayed an energy transfer efficiency of over 96%, making it one of the most efficient aqueous light-harvesting systems of its kind reported thus far.

Demonstrating the uses of POSS-peptoids for light harvesting

To showcase the use of this system, the researchers then inserted the nanocrystals into live human cells as a biocompatible probe for live cell imaging. When light of a certain color shines on the cells and the acceptor molecules are present, the cells emit a light of a different color. When the acceptor molecules are absent, the color change is not observed. Though the team only demonstrated the usefulness of this system for live cell imaging so far, the enhanced properties and high programmability of this 2D hybrid material leads them to believe this is one of many applications.

"Though this research is still in its early stages, the unique structural features and high energy transfer of POSS-peptoid 2D nanocrystals have the potential to be applied to many different systems, from photovoltaics to photocatalysis," said Chen. He and his colleagues will continue to explore avenues for application of this new hybrid material.

###

Other authors of this study include: James De Yoreo, Mingming Wang, Shuai Zhang, and Xin Zhang from PNNL and Song Yang and Yuehe Lin from Washington State University. Shuai Zhang, James De Yoreo, and Chun-Long Chen are also affiliated with the University of Washington. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences program as part of the Center for the Science of Synthesis Across Scales, an Energy Frontier Research Center located at the University of Washington.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Karyn Hede

509-375-2144

@PNNLab

Copyright © Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

RELATED JOURNAL ARTICLE:

Related News Press

Laboratories

A simple way to get complex semiconductors to assemble themselves: Much like crystallizing rock candy from sugar syrup, the new method grows 2D perovskites precisely layered with other 2D materials to produce crystals with a wide range of electronic properties September 17th, 2021

Scientists demonstrate pathway to forerunner of nanotubes that could lead to widespread industrial fabrication September 17th, 2021

Patterning silicon at the one nanometer scale: Scientists engineer materials’ electrical and optical properties with plasmon engineering August 13th, 2021

Verizon and Zurich Instruments join Q-NEXT national quantum science center August 6th, 2021

News and information

Getting to the root of tooth replantation challenges: Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) report a delivery system that promotes healing in tooth replantation in rats September 17th, 2021

Researchers reveal multi-path mechanism in electrochemical CO2 reduction September 17th, 2021

Scientists demonstrate pathway to forerunner of nanotubes that could lead to widespread industrial fabrication September 17th, 2021

Imaging

Tweezer grant pleases Rice researchers: University wins NSF grant to acquire ‘optical tweezer’ to manipulate micron-scale matter September 10th, 2021

Imaging single spine structural plasticity at the nanoscale level: Researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) have developed a new imaging technique capable of visualizing the dynamically changing structure of dendritic spines with unprecedented resol September 3rd, 2021

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

A simple way to get complex semiconductors to assemble themselves: Much like crystallizing rock candy from sugar syrup, the new method grows 2D perovskites precisely layered with other 2D materials to produce crystals with a wide range of electronic properties September 17th, 2021

Scientists demonstrate pathway to forerunner of nanotubes that could lead to widespread industrial fabrication September 17th, 2021

Lehigh University to lead ‘integrative partnerships’ for multi-university research collaboration in advanced optoelectronic material development: 5-year, $25 million NSF investment in IMOD, a revolutionary center for optoelectronic, quantum technologies September 10th, 2021

Stretching the capacity of flexible energy storage September 10th, 2021

Possible Futures

New nano particles suppress resistance to cancer immunotherapy September 17th, 2021

New physics research reveals fresh complexities about electron behavior in materials September 17th, 2021

Scientists demonstrate pathway to forerunner of nanotubes that could lead to widespread industrial fabrication September 17th, 2021

Silver nanoparticles boost performance of microbial fuel cells September 17th, 2021

Discoveries

Ultrasound at the nanometre scale reveals the nature of force September 17th, 2021

A simple way to get complex semiconductors to assemble themselves: Much like crystallizing rock candy from sugar syrup, the new method grows 2D perovskites precisely layered with other 2D materials to produce crystals with a wide range of electronic properties September 17th, 2021

Getting to the root of tooth replantation challenges: Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) report a delivery system that promotes healing in tooth replantation in rats September 17th, 2021

Researchers reveal multi-path mechanism in electrochemical CO2 reduction September 17th, 2021

Announcements

Getting to the root of tooth replantation challenges: Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) report a delivery system that promotes healing in tooth replantation in rats September 17th, 2021

Researchers reveal multi-path mechanism in electrochemical CO2 reduction September 17th, 2021

Scientists demonstrate pathway to forerunner of nanotubes that could lead to widespread industrial fabrication September 17th, 2021

Silver nanoparticles boost performance of microbial fuel cells September 17th, 2021

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers/Posters

New nano particles suppress resistance to cancer immunotherapy September 17th, 2021

New physics research reveals fresh complexities about electron behavior in materials September 17th, 2021

Good for groundwater – bad for crops? Plastic particles release pollutants in upper soil layers: The environmental geoscientists at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) focused on a variety of parameters that contribute to plastic pollution in far September 17th, 2021

Ultrasound at the nanometre scale reveals the nature of force September 17th, 2021

Solar/Photovoltaic

Ultrafast & ultrathin: new physics professor at TU Dresden makes mysterious quantum world visible September 10th, 2021

The National Space Society Joins the Progressive Policy Institute in Supporting Rapid Development of Space Solar Power: Orbiting Solar Power Stations Would Help to Save the Environment August 20th, 2021

Harnessing sunlight to fuel the future through covalent organic frameworks: Scientists underscore the potential of a new class of materials to convert sunlight to fuel August 13th, 2021

A universal intercalation strategy for high-stable perovskite photovoltaics: Researchers at Kanazawa University demonstrate that the use of CsI intercalation technology greatly passivate defects, subsequently improve device performance. This technology may encourage a more widesp August 6th, 2021

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project