Open Access Open Badges Research

Biotemplating rod-like viruses for the synthesis of copper nanorods and nanowires

Jing C Zhou156, Carissa M Soto1*, Mu-San Chen1, Michael A Bruckman15, Martin H Moore1, Edward Barry2, Banahalli R Ratna1, Pehr E Pehrsson3, Bradley R Spies4 and Tammie S Confer4

Author Affiliations

1 Naval Research Laboratory, Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering, 4555 Overlook Ave. S.W., Washington DC, 20375, USA

2 Martin Fisher School of Physics, Brandeis University, 415 South St., Waltham, MA, 02454, USA

3 Naval Research Laboratory Code 6100, 4555 Overlook Ave. S.W., Washington DC, 20375, USA

4 Naval Research Laboratory Code 5711, 4555 Overlook Ave. S.W., Washington DC, 20375, USA

5 NRL/NRC postdoc resident at Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC, USA

6 Present address: IBM Almaden Research Center, 650 Harry Rd, San Jose, CA, 95120-6099, USA

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2012, 10:18  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-10-18

Published: 1 May 2012



In the past decade spherical and rod-like viruses have been used for the design and synthesis of new kind of nanomaterials with unique chemical positioning, shape, and dimensions in the nanosize regime. Wild type and genetic engineered viruses have served as excellent templates and scaffolds for the synthesis of hybrid materials with unique properties imparted by the incorporation of biological and organic moieties and inorganic nanoparticles. Although great advances have been accomplished, still there is a broad interest in developing reaction conditions suitable for biological templates while not limiting the material property of the product.


We demonstrate the controlled synthesis of copper nanorods and nanowires by electroless deposition of Cu on three types of Pd-activated rod-like viruses. Our aqueous solution-based method is scalable and versatile for biotemplating, resulting in Cu-nanorods 24–46 nm in diameter as measured by transmission electron microscopy. Cu2+ was chemically reduced onto Pd activated tobacco mosaic virus, fd and M13 bacteriophages to produce a complete and uniform Cu coverage. The Cu coating was a combination of Cu0 and Cu2O as determined by X- ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis. A capping agent, synthesized in house, was used to disperse Cu-nanorods in aqueous and organic solvents. Likewise, reactions were developed to produce Cu-nanowires by metallization of polyaniline-coated tobacco mosaic virus.


Synthesis conditions described in the current work are scalable and amenable for biological templates. The synthesized structures preserve the dimensions and shape of the rod-like viruses utilized during the study. The current work opens the possibility of generating a variety of nanorods and nanowires of different lengths ranging from 300 nm to micron sizes. Such biological-based materials may find ample use in nanoelectronics, sensing, and cancer therapy.

Tobacco mosaic virus; M13 phage; fd phage; Electroless deposition; Polyaniline coating; Dispersion