Single-step alcohol-free synthesis of coreshell nanoparticles of <tex>$\gamma$</tex>-casein micelles and silica
Faculty of Sciences. Physics
, p. 25650-25657
University of Antwerp
A new, single-step protocol for wrapping individual nanosized β-casein micelles with silica is presented. This biomolecule-friendly synthesis proceeds at low protein concentration at almost neutral pH, and makes use of sodium silicate instead of the common silicon alkoxides. This way, formation of potentially protein-denaturizing alcohols can be avoided. The pH of the citrate-buffered synthesis medium is close to the isoelectric point of β-casein, which favours micelle formation. A limited amount of sodium silicate is added to the protein micelle suspension, to form a thin silica coating around the β-casein micelles. The size distribution of the resulting proteinsilica structures was characterized using DLS and SAXS, as well as 1H NMR DOSY with a dedicated pulsed-field gradient cryo-probehead to cope with the low protein concentration. The degree of silica-condensation was investigated by 29Si MAS NMR, and the nanostructure was revealed by advanced electron microscopy techniques such as ESEM and HAADF-STEM. As indicated by the combined characterization results, a silica shell of 2 nm is formed around individual β-casein micelles giving rise to separate protein coresilica shell nanoparticles of 17 nm diameter. This alcohol-free method at mild temperature and pH is potentially suited for packing protein molecules into bio-compatible silica nanocapsules for a variety of applications in biosensing, therapeutic protein delivery and biocatalysis.