Multivalent Cation-Induced Actuation of DNA-Mediated Colloidal Superlattices
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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.