Nature Chemistry 2022
Interactions between the microbiota and their colonized environments mediate critical pathways from biogeochemical cycles to homeostasis in human health. Here we report a soil-inspired chemical system that consists of nanostructured minerals, starch granules and liquid metals. Fabricated via a bottom-up synthesis, the soil-inspired chemical system can enable chemical redistribution and modulation of microbial communities. We characterize the composite, confirming its structural similarity to the soil, with three-dimensional X-ray fluorescence and ptychographic tomography and electron microscopy imaging. We also demonstrate that post-synthetic modifications formed by laser irradiation led to chemical heterogeneities from the atomic to the macroscopic level. The soil-inspired material possesses chemical, optical and mechanical responsiveness to yield write–erase functions in electrical performance. The composite can also enhance microbial culture/biofilm growth and biofuel production in vitro. Finally, we show that the soil-inspired system enriches gut bacteria diversity, rectifies tetracycline-induced gut microbiome dysbiosis and ameliorates dextran sulfate sodium-induced rodent colitis symptoms within in vivo rodent models.