Design of three-dimensional, millimeter-scale models for molecular folding

T. D. Clark, M. Boncheva, J. M. German, M. Weck, G. M. Whitesides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This communication describes the fabrication of three-dimensional structures of organic polymers using principles of design inspired by protein folding. The structures consist of rigid polyhedral components with dimensions of a few millimeters ("microdomains"), representing α-helical and β-sheet secondary structures, connected with flexible linkers representing loops or turns. These structures were fabricated from polyurethane using photolithographic and soft lithographic techniques. The surfaces of the microdomains were patterned into hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions, and a hydrophobic photocurable liquid (serving both as lubricant and adhesive) was selectively precipitated onto the hydrophobic areas. The unfolded structures were suspended in water and agitated by tumbling. Self-assembly occurred through coalescence of the thin films of hydrophobic liquid, and was caused by minimization of the free energy of the interface between the liquid adhesive and the water. The self-assembled structures were locked in place by curing the adhesive with UV light. These results demonstrate the use of concepts abstracted from the study of proteins including attractive hydrophobic interactions, shape complementarity, and conformational constraint in the self-assembly of complex, three-dimensional structures on the millimeter scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-19
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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