Enhanced charge transport behaviour of protein-metal nanocluster hybrid

protein nanocluster

Proteins are the most vital life forms which maintain close coordination with almost living activities through their biological functions. Nevertheless, in most cases, proteins suffer from low charge (electron) transfer efficiency as they are mainly made of insulating organic molecules. The interdisciplinary research publication, of Dr Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay and Dr Sabyasachi Chakrabortty from the Department of Physics & Department of Chemistry respectively, along with their PhD scholars: Ms Ashwini Nawade, Mr Kumar Babu Busi and Ms Kunchanapalli Ramya, envisions the molecular-level understanding of the charge transport behaviour of various protein-metal nanocluster hybrid.

The article titled ‘“Improved Charge Transport across Bovine Serum Albumin – Au Nanoclusters’ Hybrid Molecular Junction” was featured in the prestigious Q1 journal ACS Omega (IF: 3.512), published by the ‘American Chemical Society’. They successfully incorporated Gold Nanoclusters inside the protein backbone leading to an increase in their conductivity. This will provide new avenues for the rational design of bioelectronic devices with optimized features. The BSA-Au cluster has been a promising model for bioelectronic functionalities. With an increase in their current carrying capacity, they can be used for many more applications, especially as the interface between tissue and organ in biocompatible devices. The research team is also planning to work with various protein dopants to understand their charge transport mechanism. These studies will help in using the protein for various applications mainly in bioimplants or biosensors for drug testing and diagnostics purposes.

Abstract of the Research

Proteins, a highly complex substance, have been the essential element in the living organism where various applications are envisioned due to their biocompatible nature. Apart from protein’s biological functions, contemporary research mainly focuses on their evolving potential associated with nanoscale electronics. Here, we report one type of chemical doping process in model protein molecules (BSA) to modulate its electrical conductivity by incorporating metal (Gold) nanoclusters on the surface or within it. The as-synthesized Au NCs incorporated inside the BSA (Au 1 to Au 6) were optically well characterized with UV-Vis, time-resolved photoluminescence (TRPL), X-ray photon spectroscopy, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy techniques. The PL quantum yield for Au 1 is 6.8% whereas Au 6 is 0.03%. In addition, the electrical measurements showed ~10-fold enhancement of conductivity in Au 6 where maximum loading of Au NCs was predicted inside the protein matrix. We observed a dynamic behaviour in the electrical conduction of such protein-nanocluster films, which could have real-time applications in preparing biocompatible electronic devices.

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