Polypeptide-Coated Silica Particles Dispersed in Lyotropic Liquid Crystals of the Same Polypeptide

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When a particle is introduced into a liquid crystal (LC), it distorts the LC director field, leading to new arrangements of the particles. This phenomenon is ordinarily studied using >100 nm particles and ∼2 nm mesogens. Usually the particle surface and mesogens are chemically distinct, which adds an enthalpic effect, even though the more interesting interactions are entropic. To raise the structures to the visible regime, while minimizing chemical differences between the particle surface and mesogen, silica particles coated with an α-helical polypeptide have been prepared and dispersed in lyotropic polypeptide LCs. The polypeptide is poly(γ-stearyl-α,l-glutamate) or PSLG. To make the particles easy to manipulate and easy to find, the silica core included superparamagnetic magnetite (Fe O ) and covalently attached dye. Two methods were used to place polypeptides on these magnetic, fluorescent particles: a multistep grafting-to approach in which whole polypeptides were attached and a one-pot grafting-from approach in which the polymerization of the monomers was initiated from the particle surface. These approaches resulted in sparse and dense surface coverages, respectively. The influence of surface curvature and polypeptide molecular weight on the design of sparsely covered particles was investigated using the grafting-to approach. The aggregated grafting-from particles when freshly dispersed in a PSLG/solvent matrix disrupted the orientation of the characteristic cholesteric LC (ChLC) phase directors. In time, the hybrid particles were expelled from some domains, enabling the return of the familiar helical twist of the cholesteric mesophase. The sparsely coated grafting-to hybrid particles when inserted in the PSLG/solvent matrix assembled into stable islet-like formations that could not be disrupted even by an external magnetic field. The bulk particles aligned in chains that were easily manipulated by a magnetic field. These results indicate that polypeptide ChLCs can control and facilitate colloidal assembly of particles with matching surfaces. 3 4

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Journal of Physical Chemistry B

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