The researchers accidentally discovered that mixing water with a peptide leads to the self-assembly and self-healing of the glass

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Cracking and self-healing of peptide glass. credit: nature (2024). doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07408-x

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Cracking and self-healing of peptide glass. credit: nature (2024). doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07408-x

A team of materials scientists from Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, both in Israel, working with a colleague from the California Institute of Technology in the US, found that mixing a particular peptide with water creates a self-assembling, self-healing glass.

While investigating the properties of other proteins, the group made this discovery published in Nature Communications. Silvia Marchesan, of the University of Trieste in Italy, has published a book News and opinions piece In the same issue of the magazine, he explains the newly found glass and its potential uses.

In this new effort, the research team has been examining the possibility of using short peptides as an alternative to traditional components of complex macromolecules. As part of this effort, they worked with a dipeptide molecule formed from a phenylalanine residue when they discovered that mixing it with just water created a self-assembled type of supramolecular amorphous glass when the water evaporated at room temperature.

What’s most surprising about this discovery is that peptide self-assembly in the past typically led to the creation of materials with a crystalline structure, something that is not transparent and thus not even close to glass.

When the new type of glass was discovered, researchers began studying its properties. They found that in addition to building itself spontaneously, the glass was self-healing and adherent, despite its high hardness.

It was also considered extremely powerful. The researchers found that it was as transparent as traditional glass, and further research showed that the glass could be used to make glass panels and coatings to create hydrophilic surfaces. They also found that it can be used to make things that require precision, such as optical lenses that can be used for a wide range of magnification purposes.

The research team notes that additional testing could lead to a wider range of uses for the glass, noting that the new type of glass does not require as much energy to produce as is the case with most glasses now used commercially.

more information:
Gal Finkelstein-Zota et al., Transparent self-healing multispectral adhesive peptide glass, nature (2024). doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07408-x

Silvia Marchesan, Simple Peptide Self-Healing Glass – Just Add Water, nature (2024). doi: 10.1038/d41586-024-01505-7

Magazine information:
Nature Communications


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