Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Molecular Mechanism of Specific Recognition of Cubic Pt Nanocrystals by Peptides and of the Concentration-Dependent Formation from Seed Crystals

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-4-2015


Metal nanocrystals enable new functionality in sensors, biomarkers, and catalysts while mechanisms of shape-control in synthesis remain incompletely understood. This study explains mechanisms of biomolecule recognition and ligand-directed growth of cubic platinum nanocrystals in atomic detail using molecular dynamics simulation (MD), synthesis, and characterization. Peptide T7 is shown to selectively recognize {100} bounded nanocubes through preferential adsorption near the edges as opposed to facet centers. Spatial preferences in peptide binding are related to differences in the binding of water molecules and conformational matching of polarizable atoms in the peptide to {100} epitaxial sites. Changes in peptide concentration also have profound impact on attraction versus repulsion on a given surface. As an example, the selective synthesis of cubes in the presence of peptide T7 demonstrates that only intermediate T7 concentration leads to high yield. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) shows concentration-dependent changes in crystal shape, yield, and size. Large-scale MD simulations explain associated differences in facet coverage and in adsorption energies of T7 peptides on cuboctahedral seed crystals, supporting a growth mechanism of adatom deposition. A similar analysis using a different peptide S7 is presented as well. Emerging computational opportunities to predict ligand binding to metal nanocrystals and rationalize growth preferences are summarized.

Publication Title

Advanced Functional Materials





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