Diphenylalanine-Derivative Peptide Assemblies with Increased Aromaticity Exhibit Metal-like Rigidity and High Piezoelectricity

Vasantha Basavalingappa, Santu Bera, Bin Xue, Joseph O'Donnell, Sarah Guerin, Pierre Andre Cazade, Hui Yuan, Ehtsham Ul Haq, Christophe Silien, Kai Tao, Kai Tao, Linda J.W. Shimon, Syed A.M. Tofail, Damien Thompson, Sofiya Kolusheva, Rusen Yang, Yi Cao, Ehud Gazit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Diphenylalanine (FF) represents the simplest peptide building block that self-assembles into ordered nanostructures with interesting physical properties. Among self-assembled peptide structures, FF nanotubes display notable stiffness and piezoelectric parameters (Young's modulus = 19-27 GPa, strain coefficient d33 = 18 pC/N). Yet, inorganic alternatives remain the major materials of choice for many applications due to higher stiffness and piezoelectricity. Here, aiming to broaden the applications of the FF motif in materials chemistry, we designed three phenyl-rich dipeptides based on the β,β-diphenyl-Ala-OH (Dip) unit: Dip-Dip, cyclo-Dip-Dip, and tert-butyloxycarbonyl (Boc)-Dip-Dip. The doubled number of aromatic groups per unit, compared to FF, produced a dense aromatic zipper network with a dramatically improved Young's modulus of ∼70 GPa, which is comparable to aluminum. The piezoelectric strain coefficient d33 of ∼73 pC/N of such assembly exceeds that of poled polyvinylidene-fluoride (PVDF) polymers and compares well to that of lead zirconium titanate (PZT) thin films and ribbons. The rationally designed π-πassemblies show a voltage coefficient of 2-3 Vm/N, an order of magnitude higher than PVDF, improved thermal stability up to 360 °C (∼60 °C higher than FF), and useful photoluminescence with wide-range excitation-dependent emission in the visible region. Our data demonstrate that aromatic groups improve the rigidity and piezoelectricity of organic self-assembled materials for numerous applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7025-7037
Number of pages13
JournalACS Nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - 23 Jun 2020


  • aromatic-rich peptides
  • crystal engineering
  • energy harvesting
  • metallic Young's modulus
  • photoluminescence
  • piezoelectricity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (all)
  • Engineering (all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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