Controlled self-assembly of plant proteins into high-performance multifunctional nanostructured films

Kamada, Ayaka; Rodriguez-Garcia, Marc; Ruggeri, Francesco Simone; Shen, Yi; Levin, Aviad; Knowles, Tuomas P.J.


The abundance of plant-derived proteins, as well as their biodegradability and low environmental impact make them attractive polymeric feedstocks for next-generation functional materials to replace current petroleum-based systems. However, efforts to generate functional materials from plant-based proteins in a scalable manner have been hampered by the lack of efficient methods to induce and control their micro and nanoscale structure, key requirements for achieving advantageous material properties and tailoring their functionality. Here, we demonstrate a scalable approach for generating mechanically robust plant-based films on a metre-scale through controlled nanometre-scale self-assembly of water-insoluble plant proteins. The films produced using this method exhibit high optical transmittance, as well as robust mechanical properties comparable to engineering plastics. Furthermore, we demonstrate the ability to impart nano- and microscale patterning into such films through templating, leading to the formation of hydrophobic surfaces as well as structural colour by controlling the size of the patterned features.