Hydroxyl-rich macromolecules enable the bio-inspired synthesis of single crystal nanocomposites

YY Kim and R Darkins and A Broad and AN Kulak and MA Holden and O Nahi and SP Armes and CC Tang and RF Thompson and F Marin and DM Duffy and FC Meldrum, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 10, 5682 (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13422-9

Acidic macromolecules are traditionally considered key to calcium carbonate biomineralisation and have long been first choice in the bio- inspired synthesis of crystalline materials. Here, we challenge this view and demonstrate that low-charge macromolecules can vastly outperform their acidic counterparts in the synthesis of nanocomposites. Using gold nanoparticles functionalised with low charge, hydroxyl-rich proteins and homopolymers as growth additives, we show that extremely high concentrations of nanoparticles can be incorporated within calcite single crystals, while maintaining the continuity of the lattice and the original rhombohedral morphologies of the crystals. The nanoparticles are perfectly dispersed within the host crystal and at high concentrations are so closely apposed that they exhibit plasmon coupling and induce an unexpected contraction of the crystal lattice. The versatility of this strategy is then demonstrated by extension to alternative host crystals. This simple and scalable occlusion approach opens the door to a novel class of single crystal nanocomposites.

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