Allomelanin: A Biopolymer of Intrinsic Microporosity

J Am Chem Soc. 2021 Mar 17;143(10):4005-4016. doi: 10.1021/jacs.1c00748. Epub 2021 Mar 5.


Melanin is a ubiquitous natural pigment found in a diverse array of organisms. Allomelanin is a class of nitrogen-free melanin often found in fungi. Herein, we find artificial allomelanin analogues exhibit high intrinsic microporosity and describe an approach for further increasing and tuning that porosity. Notably, the synthetic method involves an oxidative polymerization of 1,8-DHN in water, negating the need for multiple complex templating steps and avoiding expensive or complex chemical precursors. The well-defined morphologies of these nanomaterials were elucidated by a combination of electron microscopy and scattering methods, yielding to high-resolution 3D reconstruction based on small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) results. Synthetic allomelanin nanoparticles exhibit high BET areas, up to 860 m2/g, and are capable of ammonia capture up to 17.0 mmol/g at 1 bar. In addition, these nanomaterials can adsorb nerve agent simulants in solution and as a coating on fabrics with high breathability where they prevent breakthrough. We also confirmed that naturally derived fungal melanin can adsorb nerve gas simulants in solution efficiently despite lower porosity than synthetic analogues. Our approach inspires further analysis of yet to be discovered biological materials of this class where melanins with intrinsic microporosity may be linked to evolutionary advantages in relevant organisms and may in turn inspire the design of new high surface area materials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Biopolymers / chemistry*
  • Biopolymers / metabolism
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Melanins / chemistry*
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Naphthols / chemistry
  • Naphthols / metabolism
  • Paraoxon / chemistry
  • Paraoxon / metabolism
  • Porosity
  • Scattering, Small Angle
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Biopolymers
  • Melanins
  • Naphthols
  • 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene
  • Paraoxon