Photoluminescence (PL) spectra reveal that deficiency of water molecules in the channel cores of bioinspired hierarchical diphenylalanine (L-Phe-L-Phe, FF) peptide nanotubes (PNTs) not only modifies the bandgap of the subnanometer crystalline structure formed by the self-assembly process, but also induces a characteristic ultraviolet PL peak the position of which is linearly proportional to the number of water molecules in the PNTs. Addition or loss of water molecules gives rise to the UV PL redshift or blueshift. Density functional theory calculation also confirms that addition of water molecules to the PNTs causes splitting of the valence-band peak, which corresponds to the shift and splitting of the observed UV PL peak. Water molecules play an important role in the biological properties of FF PNTs and the results demonstrate that the PL spectra can be used to probe the number of water molecules bonded to the FF molecules.
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