Protein Crystal-Polymer Hybrids
The formation of condensed matter typically involves a trade-off between structural order and flexibility. As the extent and directionality of interactions between atomic or molecular components increase, materials generally become more ordered but less compliant, and vice versa. In order to circumvent this fundamental limitation, we recently constructed a new form of material comprised of protein crystals and integrated synthetic polymers. This hybrid material displays remarkable materials properties: it can reversibly expand to >500% of their original volume without losing crystallinity, exhibit a higher extent of structural order (i.e., improved resolution) upon expansion/contraction and self-heal when cracked. Current efforts in this project focus on broadening the scope of polymer and crystal components to achieve tunable physical properties in addition to establishing new methods for their co-integration, with an eye towards developing advanced functional devices only made possible by the complementary properties of protein and polymer systems.
Principal members: Ling, Kenneth, Yui
L. Zhang, J.B. Bailey, R.H. Subramanian, F.A. Tezcan. Hyperexpandable, self-healing macromolecular crystals with integrated polymer networks, Nature (2018).[PDF]