MATERIALS SCIENCE: Transmutable nanoparticles with reconfigurable surface ligands

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Unlike conventional inorganic materials, biological systems are exquisitely adapted to respond to their surroundings. Proteins and other biological molecules can process a complex set of chemical binding events as informational inputs and respond accordingly via a change in structure and function. We applied this principle to the design and synthesis of inorganic materials by preparing nanoparticles with reconfigurable surface ligands, where interparticle bonding can be programmed in response to specific chemical cues in a dynamic manner. As a result, a nascent set of “transmutable nanoparticles” can be driven to crystallize along multiple thermodynamic trajectories, resulting in rational control over the phase and time evolution of nanoparticle-based matter.

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