Interfacial phase transition of an environmentally responsive elastin biopolymer adsorbed on functionalized gold nanoparticles studied by colloidal surface plasmon resonance.
The change in optical properties of colloidal gold upon aggregation has been used to develop an experimentally convenient colorimetric method to study the interfacial phase transition of an elastin-like polypeptide (ELP), a thermally responsive biopolymer. Gold nanoparticles, functionalized with a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) of mercaptoundecanoic acid onto which an ELP was adsorbed, exhibit a characteristic red color due to the surface plasmon resonance (SPR) of individual colloids. Raising the solution temperature from 10 degrees C to 40 degrees C thermally triggered the hydrophilic-to-hydrophobic phase transition of the adsorbed ELP resulting in formation of large aggregates due to interparticle hydrophobic interaction. Formation of large aggregates caused a change in color of the colloidal suspension from red to violet due to coupling of surface plasmons in aggregated colloids. The surface phase transition of the ELP was reversible, as seen from the reversible change in color upon cooling the suspension to 10 degrees C. The formation of colloidal aggregates due to the interfacial phase transition of adsorbed ELP was independently verified by dynamic light scattering of ELP-modified gold colloids as a function of temperature. Colloidal SPR provides a simple and convenient colorimetric method to study the influence of the solution environment, interfacial properties, and grafting method on the transition properties of ELPs and other environmentally responsive polymers at the solid-water interface.
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