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Nature. 2014 Sep 4;513(7516):77-80. doi: 10.1038/nature13694.

Hierarchical organization of chiral rafts in colloidal membranes.

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1] Department of Physics, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA [2].
Laboratoire de Physique, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Université de Lyon I, CNRS/UMR 5672, 46 allée d'Italie, 69007 Lyon, France.
Department of Physics, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.


Liquid-liquid phase separation is ubiquitous in suspensions of nanoparticles, proteins and colloids. It has an important role in gel formation, protein crystallization and perhaps even as an organizing principle in cellular biology. With a few notable exceptions, liquid-liquid phase separation in bulk proceeds through the continuous coalescence of droplets until the system undergoes complete phase separation. But when colloids, nanoparticles or proteins are confined to interfaces, surfaces or membranes, their interactions differ fundamentally from those mediated by isotropic solvents, and this results in significantly more complex phase behaviour. Here we show that liquid-liquid phase separation in monolayer membranes composed of two dissimilar chiral colloidal rods gives rise to thermodynamically stable rafts that constantly exchange monomeric rods with the background reservoir to maintain a self-limited size. We visualize and manipulate rafts to quantify their assembly kinetics and to show that membrane distortions arising from the rods' chirality lead to long-range repulsive raft-raft interactions. Rafts assemble into cluster crystals at high densities, but they can also form bonds to yield higher-order structures. Taken together, our observations demonstrate a robust membrane-based pathway for the assembly of monodisperse membrane clusters that is complementary to existing methods for colloid assembly in bulk suspensions. They also reveal that chiral inclusions in membranes can acquire long-range repulsive interactions, which might more generally have a role in stabilizing assemblages of finite size.


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