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Nature. 2011 Jan 20;469(7330):381-4. doi: 10.1038/nature09713.

Directed self-assembly of a colloidal kagome lattice.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


A challenging goal in materials chemistry and physics is spontaneously to form intended superstructures from designed building blocks. In fields such as crystal engineering and the design of porous materials, this typically involves building blocks of organic molecules, sometimes operating together with metallic ions or clusters. The translation of such ideas to nanoparticles and colloidal-sized building blocks would potentially open doors to new materials and new properties, but the pathways to achieve this goal are still undetermined. Here we show how colloidal spheres can be induced to self-assemble into a complex predetermined colloidal crystal-in this case a colloidal kagome lattice-through decoration of their surfaces with a simple pattern of hydrophobic domains. The building blocks are simple micrometre-sized spheres with interactions (electrostatic repulsion in the middle, hydrophobic attraction at the poles, which we call 'triblock Janus') that are also simple, but the self-assembly of the spheres into an open kagome structure contrasts with previously known close-packed periodic arrangements of spheres. This open network is of interest for several theoretical reasons. With a view to possible enhanced functionality, the resulting lattice structure possesses two families of pores, one that is hydrophobic on the rims of the pores and another that is hydrophilic. This strategy of 'convergent' self-assembly from easily fabricated colloidal building blocks encodes the target supracolloidal architecture, not in localized attractive spots but instead in large redundantly attractive regions, and can be extended to form other supracolloidal networks.


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