SCIENCE CHINA Materials, Volume 63 , Issue 7 : 1099-1112(2020) https://doi.org/10.1007/s40843-020-1296-8

Peptoid-based hierarchically-structured biomimetic nanomaterials: Synthesis, characterization and applications

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  • ReceivedJan 30, 2020
  • AcceptedMar 10, 2020
  • PublishedApr 22, 2020


Funded by

the Startup Research Fund of Dongguan University of Technology(KCYKYQD2017015)

by the US Department of Energy

Office of Science

Office of Basic Energy Sciences

as part of the Energy Frontier Research Centers program: CSSAS—The Center for the Science of Synthesis Across Scales(DE-SC0019288)


This work was supported by the Startup Research Fund of Dongguan University of Technology (KCYKYQD2017015) and the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, as part of the Energy Frontier Research Centers program: CSSAS—The Center for the Science of Synthesis Across Scales (DE-SC0019288). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a multi-program national laboratory operated for the Department of Energy by Battelle under contract number DE-AC05-76RL01830.

Interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Liu J and Chen CL proposed the topic and outline of this review article. Liu J and Cai B collected the related information needed in writing the paper; Liu J, Cui L and Chen CL co-wrote and modified the manuscript. All authors discussed and commented on the manuscript.

Author information

Jianli Liu received her PhD degree in physical chemistry from the Institutes of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2016. She is a Postdoc under the supervision of Prof. Lifeng Cui in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Dongguan University of Technology. Currently, she is working in Prof. Chun-Long Chen’s group as a visiting scholar in the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Her research interests are the design and assembly of peptoids and the study of their formation mechanisms by in situ AFM.

Lifeng Cui finished his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at Xi’an University of Posts & Telecommunications in 2001. In 2007, he received his PhD degree in materials science under the supervision of Prof. Lai-Sheng Wang at Washington State University. After postdoctoral studies in materials science at Stanford University with Professor Yi Cui, he joined Amazon Inc. in 2010 and worked as a R&D engineer. He joined Shanghai University for Science & Technology as a professor in 2013 and moved to his present position as professor of materials science and engineering in 2016. His current research interests include advanced nano-structured materials, photocatalysis, and catalysis for biomass conversion.

Chun-Long Chen is currently a senior research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and a joint Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington. His research group is tackling the challenges of developing sequence-defined peptoids that mimic proteins and peptides for assembly of biomimetic functional materials (e.g., artificial membranes) and for controlling inorganic crystal formation (e.g., plasmonic nanomaterials), aiming at design and synthesis of bio-inspired functional materials that rival those found in biology.


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  • Figure 1

    (a) The structures of peptides and peptoids, and peptoids bridge the gap between the natural polymers and synthetic polymers. (b) Solid-phase synthesis of sequence-defined peptoids through a repeating two-step submonomer synthesis method.

  • Figure 2

    (a) Structure of Pep-1 and a proposed model showing the multilayered peptoid ribbons connected through Ca2+-carboxylate coordination bonds and hydrophobic interactions (nitrogen, blue; oxygen, red; chloride, cyan; calcium cation, purple). (b) Time dependent in situ AFM images showing Pep-1-Ca2+ complexes assembly pathway on mica surface, in which Pep-1-Ca2+ nanoparticles were directly transformed into hexagonally patterned nanoribbons. The inset of each image is a 2D Fourier transform showing the six-fold symmetry. (c) Dynamic force spectra of Pep-1-modified AFM tips with bare mica or preassembled Pep-1. Fitting the mean rupture forces between Pep-1 and bare mica (top curve) or between Pep-1 and preassembled Pep-1 on mica (bottom curve) yields the single-molecule binding free energy. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [16], Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society.

  • Figure 3

    (a) Structures of Pep-1 and Pep-2. (b) In situ AFM imaging of Pep-2 (left) and Pep-1 (right) assembly process to form porous networks. (c) Proposed model for Pep-2 assembly process at early (left) and late (right) stages showing the effect of hydrophobic conjugate on the propensity for peptoid aggregation. (d, e) Kinetics of crystal formation. Nuclei number density versus time for Pep-2 (d) and Pep-1 (e). Reprinted with permission from Ref. [35], Copyright 2017, Nature Publishing Group.

  • Figure 4

    (a) Structures of Pep-3-CD. (b) In situ AFM time series showing two-step assembly of Pep-3-CD cylindrical micelles and (f) kinetics of spheroidal precursors (black) transformed into cylindrical micelles (blue) on quartz. (c) In situ AFM time series images showing Pep-3-CD assembly into 2D films on mica at pH 2.8. (d) AFM images showing Pep-3-CD self-assembled into 1D cylindrical micelles on quartz surface (i), 2D films on mica surface (ii) and 3D intertwined ribbons with 5 mmol L−1 CaCl2 on mica surface (iii). (e) Illustration of the mechanisms of Pep-3-CD self-assembly into cylindrical micelles, 2D films and 3D intertwined ribbons. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [10], Copyright 2019, Wiley.

  • Figure 5

    (a) Structure of Pep-3 and the scheme showing its assembly into membrane-mimetic 2D nanomaterials, and an AFM image of Pep-3 nanomembranes with straight edges. (b) TEM images showing the elongated nanoribbon intermediates before the nanomembrane formation. (c) Schematic illustration of the AFM mechanical manipulation and peptoid membrane repair process. (d) In situ AFM images showing the self-repair process of peptoid membranes on mica surface. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [15], Copyright 2016, Wiley.

  • Figure 6

    (a) Structure of Pep-4 and a proposed model showing the assembly of Pep-4 into SW-PNTs. (b) Time-dependent TEM images show the assembly process of Pep-PNTs. The Pep-4 assembled into a mixture of nanospheres, then converted into nanosheets with partially rolled up edges, and these sheets further fold and closure to form nanotubes after 72 h. (c) Liquid cell AFM data showing the pH-triggered PNT height changes. (d) AFM-based measurement of the PNT mechanical property, in which the PNTs underwent an intense deformation after an indentation induced by the AFM tip. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [12], Copyright 2018, Nature Publishing Group.

  • Figure 7

    (a) The scheme showing the synthesis of Pd0 nanomaterials templated by peptoid assemblies with two different morphologies. (b) Catalytic analysis of the resulting Pd nanomaterials showing that fiber-templated Pd0 nanomaterials exhibited significant enhancement for olefin hydrogenation over membrane-templated Pd0 materials. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [52], Copyright 2018, Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Figure 8

    (a) Structure of Pep-5 and the scheme showing self-assembly of fluorinated peptoids into crystalline nanoflowers. (b) Cell incubated with FPC (100 nmol L−1) for 1 h. (c) Cell viability of H1299 cells after incubating with different concentrations of FPC. (d) Characterization of the localization of the FPCs in the cell. Reprinted with permission from Ref. [17], Copyright 2018, Wiley.

  • Figure 9

    (a) Incorporating functional groups into self-assembling peptoids did not inhibit the formation of nanomembranes (left) and nanotubes (right). (b) Fluorescence image showing that RGD-containing peptoid nanotubes (PNTs) exhibit a high cellular uptake. (c) CD-containing PNTs were used as adsorbents for the removal of azo-dyes from water. (d) The FRET system based on Pep-3-CD cylindrical micelles, NBD donors and RB acceptors. Fluorescence emission results show a high FRET efficiency of this system in aqueous solution. Reprinted with permission from Refs [12,14], Copyright 2016 and 2018, Nature Publishing Group, and Ref. [10], Copyright 2019, Wiley.