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Nature. 2012 Nov 1;491(7422):51-5. doi: 10.1038/nature11564.

Colloids with valence and specific directional bonding.

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Molecular Design Institute and Department of Chemistry, New York University, New York, New York 10003, USA.


The ability to design and assemble three-dimensional structures from colloidal particles is limited by the absence of specific directional bonds. As a result, complex or low-coordination structures, common in atomic and molecular systems, are rare in the colloidal domain. Here we demonstrate a general method for creating the colloidal analogues of atoms with valence: colloidal particles with chemically distinct surface patches that imitate hybridized atomic orbitals, including sp, sp(2), sp(3), sp(3)d, sp(3)d(2) and sp(3)d(3). Functionalized with DNA with single-stranded sticky ends, patches on different particles can form highly directional bonds through programmable, specific and reversible DNA hybridization. These features allow the particles to self-assemble into 'colloidal molecules' with triangular, tetrahedral and other bonding symmetries, and should also give access to a rich variety of new microstructured colloidal materials.

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