Inspired by biology, a PNNL-led team of scientists has created new tiny tubes that could help with water purification and tissue engineering studies
Materials scientists, led by a team at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, designed a tiny tube that rolls up and zips closed.
These hollow nanotubes are thousands of times smaller than a strand of human hair and could help with water filtration, tissue engineering and many other applications.
The tubes were inspired by protein structures called microtubules that reside in cells, according to PNNL's Chun-Long Chen.
"The structure of the cell is so beautiful," said Chen, a materials chemist who conceived of and directed the project. "We wanted to create a synthetic system that mimics the microtubule structure and is stable enough for a variety of technical applications."
Chen, his PNNL colleagues and their collaborators published their findings this week in Nature Communications.
Microtubules are tiny hollow tubes that help keep DNA organized during cell division and form highways for shuttling contents around in the cell.
These cellular roads are composed of long chains of proteins that come together into a rigid, but hollow, tube. Microtubules have a uniform but dynamic structure, and they inspire scientists like Chen.
Chen's group hopes to use tiny hollow tubes like microtubules to create a robust water filtration system that would catch salt or other molecules inside and let pure water escape out the other end. In addition, they want to monitor how stem cells adapt to different environments by studying how the cells change while they grow on these tubes.
But the researchers can't use microtubules themselves for these projects. Microtubules may be rigid and responsive, but they're also susceptible to temperature changes and microbes.
For example, "if we want to use microtubules for water filtration, you don't want to have a filter that can be eaten by bacteria," said Chen.
So the team set about making a synthetic version of microtubules using protein-like molecules called peptoids. Like proteins, peptoids are composed of a repeating pattern of building blocks with slight variations, but peptoids are more stable.
These new nanotubes form in a unique way. First, small peptoid particles come together to form a sheet. Then the sheet closes at one end and rolls into a seamless tube.
To characterize the nanotubes, the scientists used a variety of techniques, including some at the Advanced Light Source and the Molecular Foundry, two DOE Office of Science User Facilities at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Chen and his team discovered that these nanotubes are highly tailorable. The group could control a tube's size, diameter, thickness and stiffness by adjusting the tube composition or changing the acidity of the solution.
To test the rigidity of the nanotubes, Chen's team put pressure on individual nanotubes and measured how they changed shape. The tubes have a rigidity that falls between biological tissue and harder substances like glass and mica, which, said Chen, is great for the types of experiments he hopes to do.
But Chen doesn't want to stop there. For him, the goal is to create something that mimics nature in structure and function.
"Nature has offered us all kinds of beautiful examples," he said. "Fish can take in water from the sea without having to worry about high salt conditions. If we could mimic this behavior by building artificial cell membranes containing these nanotubes, we could solve some of the big problems facing our world today."
This work was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science, PNNL and the National Science Foundation of China.
Reference: Haibao Jin, Yan-Huai Ding, Mingming Wang, Yang Song, Zhihao Liao, Christina L. Newcomb, Xuepeng Wu, Xian-Qiong Tang, Zheng Li, Yuehe Lin, Feng Yan, Tengyue Jian, Peng Mu, Chun-Long Chen. Designable and Dynamic Single-Walled Stiff Nanotubes Assembled from Sequence-Defined Peptoids, Nature Communications, Jan. 18, 2018, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02059-1.
Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed and operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Susan Bauer | EurekAlert!
From foam to bone: Plant cellulose can pave the way for healthy bone implants
19.03.2019 | University of British Columbia
Additive printing processes for flexible touchscreens: increased materials and cost efficiency
19.03.2019 | INM - Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gGmbH
DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.
The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Life Sciences
22.03.2019 | Information Technology