Virus Film as Template for Porous Inorganic Scaffolds

Technology #15519

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Professor Paula Hammond
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
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Professor Angela Belcher
Department of Biological Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, MIT
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Noemie-Manuelle Dorval Courchesne
Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT
Matthew Klug
Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
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Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
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Virus film as template for porous inorganic scaffolds

US Patent Pending US 2014-0048126
Assembly of a Bacteriophage-Based Template for the Organization of Materials into Nanoporous Networks
Advanced Materials, Vol. 26 (21), pp. 3398-3404 (2014).
Constructing Multifunctional Virus-Templated Nanoporous Composites for Thin Film Solar Cells: Contributions of Morphology and Optics to Photocurrent Generation
J. Phys. Chem. C, 1Vol. 19 (25), pp.13987-14000 (2015).


This technology relates to the layer-by-layer assembly of virus multilayers, in this case genetically engineered M13 bacteriophages, on functionalized surfaces to form nanoporous structures onto which metal or metal oxide nanoparticles can be nucleated to result in an interconnected network of nanowires. This invention can be used to create bulk heterojunction devices, light emitting devices, electrochemical storage systems, and other devices in which harvesting or manipulation of excitons and the isolated transport of electrons is desired. 

Problem Addressed

Nanomaterials are becoming more important for various applications; however, they still face challenges in some areas. For example, it has been difficult to create nanowire networks and interconnected bicontinuous morphologies that have length scales in the 5 to 50 nm range. This technology enables the tight control of the thickness and composition of the different substrate-specific bacteriophage layers at the nanometer scale. 


The present technology consists of a covalent LbL assembly process with 1-Ethyl-3-[3-dimethylaminopropyl]carbodiimide (EDC) as a crosslinker along with clean and plasma treated functionalized silicon or glass substrates. These substrates were functionalized by silanizing with aminopropylsilane to introduce primary amines on the surface and by crosslinking the first layer of bacteriophages with EDC and N-hydroxysulfosuccinimide (sulfo-NHS). The film was then constructed by successively dipping the functionalized substrates in an aqueous EDC solution and a dilute bacteriophage solution in phosphate buffer at pH 8. Additionally, TiO2 was synthesized on the bacteriophage template via incubation in an aqueous TiCl4 precursor solution. TiO2 was then annealed and the bacteriophages burnt off, resulting in a network of semiconducting crystalline nanowires.


  • The porous bacteriophage scaffold opens up the possibility for the 3D spatial arrangement of metal oxides and other inorganic materials, with a precise control over the film thickness, composition and spatial distribution of the nanomaterials
  • Possibility to construct superposed porous inorganic layers of well-defined thicknesses and compositions
  • The pores of the resulting nanowire network range between 5 and 50 nm, which is on the order of the exciton diffusion length in conjugated polymers and other hole transporting materials, making the bacteriophage scaffold very promising for improving exciton collection in photovoltaic applications