Multivalent Cation-Induced Actuation of DNA-Mediated Colloidal Superlattices

Devleena Samanta, Aysenur Iscen, Christine R. Laramy, Sasha B. Ebrahimi, Katherine E. Bujold, George C. Schatz*, Chad A. Mirkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Nanoparticles functionalized with DNA can assemble into ordered superlattices with defined crystal habits through programmable DNA "bonds". Here, we examine the interactions of multivalent cations with these DNA bonds as a chemical approach for actuating colloidal superlattices. Multivalent cations alter DNA structure on the molecular scale, enabling the DNA "bond length" to be reversibly altered between 17 and 3 nm, ultimately leading to changes in the overall dimensions of the micrometer-sized superlattice. The identity, charge, and concentration of the cations each control the extent of actuation, with Ni2+ capable of inducing a remarkable >65% reversible change in crystal volume. In addition, these cations can increase "bond strength", as evidenced by superlattice thermal stability enhancements of >60 °C relative to systems without multivalent cations. Molecular dynamics simulations provide insight into the conformational changes in DNA structure as the bond length approaches 3 nm and show that cations that screen the negative charge on the DNA backbone more effectively cause greater crystal contraction. Taken together, the use of multivalent cations represents a powerful strategy to alter superlattice structure and stability, which can impact diverse applications through dynamic control of material properties, including the optical, magnetic, and mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19973-19977
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 26 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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