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submitted on 06.08.2020 and posted on 07.08.2020by Whitney Fowler, Chuting Deng, Gabriella Griffen, Tess Teodoro, Ashley Z. Guo, Michal Zaiden, Moshe Gottlieb, Juan de Pablo, Matthew Tirrell
With rising consumer
demands, society is tapping into wastewater as an innovative source to recycle
depleting resources. Novel reclamation technologies have been recently explored
for this purpose, including several that optimize natural biological processes
for targeted reclamation. However, this emerging field has a noticeable dearth
of synthetic material technologies that are programmed to capture, release and
recycle specified targets, and of the novel materials that do exist, synthetic
platforms incorporating biologically inspired mechanisms are rare. We present here
a prototype of a materials platform utilizing peptide amphiphiles that has been
molecularly engineered to sequester, release, and reclaim phosphate utilizing a
stimuli-responsive pH trigger, exploiting a protein-inspired binding mechanism
that is incorporated directly into the self-assembled material network. This
material is able to sequester completely and controllably release phosphate for
multiple cycles of reuse. We have determined by simulations that the binding conformation
of the peptide becomes constrained in the dense micelle corona at high pH such
that phosphate is expelled when it otherwise would be preferentially bound.
However, at neutral pH, this dense structure conversely employs multi-chain
binding to further stabilize phosphate when it would otherwise be unbound,
opening opportunities for higher-order conformational binding design to be
engineered into this controllably packed corona. With this work, we are
pioneering a new platform to be readily altered to capture other valuable
targets, presenting a new class of capture and release materials for recycling
resources on the nanoscale.