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Nat Commun. 2016 Nov 18;7:13566. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13566.

Self-assembly of diphenylalanine peptide with controlled polarization for power generation.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Peptides have attracted considerable attention due to their biocompatibility, functional molecular recognition and unique biological and electronic properties. The strong piezoelectricity in diphenylalanine peptide expands its technological potential as a smart material. However, its random and unswitchable polarization has been the roadblock to fulfilling its potential and hence the demonstration of a piezoelectric device remains lacking. Here we show the control of polarization with an electric field applied during the peptide self-assembly process. Uniform polarization is obtained in two opposite directions with an effective piezoelectric constant d33 reaching 17.9 pm V-1. We demonstrate the power generation with a peptide-based power generator that produces an open-circuit voltage of 1.4 V and a power density of 3.3 nW cm-2. Devices enabled by peptides with controlled piezoelectricity provide a renewable and biocompatible energy source for biomedical applications and open up a portal to the next generation of multi-functional electronics compatible with human tissue.

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