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Keywords:

  • Biomimetic mineralization;
  • FeOOH, nanowires;
  • Microtubules;
  • Nanowires, inorganic;
  • Proteins;
  • Template-directed synthesis

Abstract

Protein microtubules (MTs) 25 nm in diameter and tens of micrometers long have been used as templates for the biomimetic mineralization of FeOOH. Exposure of MTs to anaerobic aqueous solutions of Fe2+ buffered to neutral pH followed by aerial oxidation leads to the formation of iron oxide coated MTs. The iron oxide layer was found to grow via a two-step process: initially formed 10–30 nm thick coatings were found to be amorphous in structure and comprised of several iron-containing species. Further growth resulted in MTs coated with highly crystalline layers of lepidocrocite with a controllable thickness of up to 125 nm. On the micrometer size scale, these coated MTs were observed to form large, irregular bundles containing hundreds of individually coated MTs. Iron oxide grew selectively on the MT surface, a result of the highly charged MT surface that provided an interface favorable for iron oxide nucleation. This result illustrates that MTs can be used as scaffolds for the in-situ production of high-aspect-ratio inorganic nanowires.