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This system is comprised of cells engineered to express surface-displayed amyloid fibers bound to heterologous polypeptides, which can in turn bind a variety of nanomaterials. The expression and assembly of multiple amyloid subunits generates complex nanostructures. The domains and patterns of the assembled structures are determined by: 1) the nanomaterials attached to amyloid fibers (e.g., metals, quantum dots, proteins), 2) the binding properties of the amyloid fibers, and 3) inducible control over amyloid fiber expression. Additionally, multiple cells can be combined to generate higher scale, anisotropic patterns of organic and inorganic materials. The structures can be purified after synthesis by destroying the supporting cells (e.g., using specific detergents/chemicals) and leaving behind the fibers and associated materials.