Phage Display Screening as a Rational Approach to Design Additives for Selective Crystallization Control in Construction Systems

B Madeja and P Wilke and E Schreiner and R Konradi and J Scheck and J Bizzozero and L Nicoleau and E Wagner and M Rueckel and H Coelfen and M Kellermeier, ADVANCED MATERIALS, 35 (2023).

DOI: 10.1002/adma.202210015

The design of additives showing strong and selective interactions with certain target surfaces is key to crystallization control in applied reactive multicomponent systems. While suitable chemical motifs can be found through semi-empirical trial-and-error procedures, bioinspired selection techniques offer a more rationally driven approach and explore a much larger space of possible combinations in a single assay. Here, phage display screening is used to characterize the surfaces of crystalline gypsum, a mineral of broad relevance for construction applications. Based on next-generation sequencing of phages enriched during the screening process, a triplet of amino acids, DYH, is identified as the main driver for adsorption on the mineral substrate. Furthermore, oligopeptides containing this motif prove to exert their influence in a strictly selective manner during the hydration of cement, where the sulfate reaction (initial setting) is strongly retarded while the silicate reaction (final hardening) remains unaffected. In the final step, these desired additive characteristics are successfully translated from the level of peptides to that of scalable synthetic copolymers. The approach described in this work demonstrates how modern biotechnological methods can be leveraged for the systematic development of efficient crystallization additives for materials science.

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