Reversible Microscale Assembly of Nanoparticles Driven by the Phase Transition of a Thermotropic Liquid Crystal

Niamh Mac Fhionnlaoich, Stephen Schrettl, Nicholas B. Tito, Ye Yang, Malavika Nair, Luis A. Serrano, Kellen Harkness, Paulo Jacob Silva, Holger Frauenrath, Francesca Serra, W. Craig Carter, Francesco Stellacci, Stefan Guldin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The arrangement of nanoscale building blocks into patterns with microscale periodicity is challenging to achieve via self-assembly processes. Here, we report on the phase-transition-driven collective assembly of gold nanoparticles in a thermotropic liquid crystal. A temperature-induced transition from the isotropic to the nematic phase under anchoring-driven planar alignment leads to the assembly of individual nanometer-sized particles into arrays of micrometer-sized agglomerates, whose size and characteristic spacing can be tuned by varying the cooling rate. Phase field simulations coupling the conserved and nonconserved order parameters exhibit a similar evolution of the morphology as the experimental observations. This fully reversible process offers control over structural order on the microscopic level and is an interesting model system for the programmable and reconfigurable patterning of nanocomposites with access to micrometer-sized periodicities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9906-9918
Number of pages13
JournalACS Nano
Volume17
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 13 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • hierarchical
  • liquid crystals
  • nanoparticles
  • phase transition
  • self-assembly
  • soft matter

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