Hierarchical self-assembly leading to organized supramolecular structures across multiple length scales has been of great recent interest. Earlier work from our laboratory reported the complexation of peptide amphiphile (PA) supramolecular polymers with oppositely charged polyelectrolytes into a single solid membrane at a macroscopic interface. We report here the formation of bulk gels with many internal interfaces between the covalent and supramolecular polymer components formed by the rapid chaotic mixing of solutions, one containing negatively charged PA nanofibers and the other the positively charged biopolymer chitosan. We found that formation of a contact layer at the interface of the solutions locks the formation of hydrogels with lamellar microstructure. The nanofiber morphology of the supramolecular polymer is essential to this process since gels do not form when solutions of supramolecular assemblies form spherical micelles. We found that rheological properties of the gels can be tuned by changing the relative amounts of each component. Furthermore, both positively and negatively charged proteins are easily encapsulated within the contact layer of the gel, which provides an interesting biomedical function for these systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics