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Biomolecular Optoelectronic Function

Leaders:  Jeff Saven, CHEM & A.T. Johnson, PHYS,
W. DeGrado, BIOPHYS , D. Bonnell, MSE, J.K. Blasie, CHEM, Bodhana Discher, Biophysics, Chris Murray, Chemistry

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Models of designed D2-symmetric a-helical coiled-coil proteins containing (a) two [cite Cochran 2004] and (b) four abiotic Fe-porphyrin cofactors. Blue helices represent capping sequences. Green helices represent computationally designed three-heptad repeat sequences

Combining functional organic molecules and inorganic nanostructures opens opportunities to engineer controlled energy transfer in catalysts, solar cells, chemical sensors, and opto-electronics.  The intrinsic self-ordering properties of appropriately designed biological molecules can be leveraged to organize complex structural assembly and function.  In principle, self-assembling, abiological peptide systems may be crafted to incorporate synthetic electro- and electro-optically-active molecules.  The ability to sculpt and differentially functionalize the exteriors of synthetic peptides and proteins raises the enticing prospect of selectively attaching an oriented peptide-based assembly within different inorganic nano-environments, e.g., between two metal leads at a nanojunction.  Inorganic metallic and semiconducting nanostructures can be used to interface these biological nanosystems with an external measurement apparatus, signal processing circuitry, and optical systems.  Combining these powerful strategies can lead to new families of functional materials ordered on the sub 10 nm length-scale and impact the understanding and realization of devices across many technologies.

In order to realize the potential of integrating biomolecular systems and inorganic nanostructures, a fundamental foundation of scientific methods and understanding must be established.  This research team unites novel approaches in the design of molecular structure to create and control electro- and electro-optic functionality in synthetic biomolecules, specifically de novo designed proteins that bind nonbiological chromophores synthesized within the team.  To explore the effect of physical interfaces on the behavior of these molecular nanostructures, methods have been developed for fabricating nanoscale electrical contacts, and for coupling protein-based assemblies to active surfaces including carbon nanotubes and graphene.  Studies of model systems that address fundamental issues at this interface are enabled by new approaches to manipulation and control of multi-component nanostructures.

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(Left) Example of crystallographic etching of graphene by metal nanoparticles. (Center) Proposed mechanism for the etching. (Right) The distribution of observed track angles is sharply peaked at 30° increments, supporting the notion that etching occurs predominantly along the zigzag and armchair directions of graphene.



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