Design of Polymeric Self-Assembling Materials and Nanocomposites in the Semi-dilute Density Regime: Multiscale Modeling

  • Barbara Capone
  • Emanuele Locatelli


Creating novel building blocks, which allow for an easy and large scale fabrication of complex materials, is a challenge and a central goal of diverse scientific fields, ranging from Physics to Materials Science. Over the past years, much effort has been devoted into creating tunable building blocks that could self assemble and stabilize complex structures with particular features such as, for example, the diamond lattice, renowned for its important photonic properties (Maldovan and Thomas, Nat Mater 3:593, 2004). This has motivated materials scientists to undertake a large scale analysis of building blocks of various shapes (Damasceno et al., Science 337(6093):453–457, 2012) and diversified functionalizations (Glotzer and Solomon, Nat Mater 6(8):557–562, 2007; Torquato and Jiao, Nature 460(7257):876–879, 2009; Akcora et al., Nat Mater 8(4):354–359, 2009). Colloids functionalized with attractive or repulsive regions (patches) (Bianchi et al., Phys Chem Chem Phys 13(14):6397–6410, 2011; Ferrari et al., J Phys Condens Matter 27(23):234104, 2015; Bianchi et al., J Phys Condens Matter 27:230301, 2015; van Oostrum et al., J Phys Condens Matter 27(23):234105, 2015; Grünewald et al., Chem Mater. 27(13):4763–4771, 2015; Choueiri et al., Nature 538(7623):79–83, 2016) showed interesting self-assembly behavior, which can be tuned either by changing the shape of the patches or their relative orientation (Romano et al., J Chem Phys 132(18):184501, 2010). State of the art methods for the synthesis of such particles include lithography (Snyder et al., Langmuir 21(11):4813–4815, 2005; Yake et al., Langmuir 23(17): 9069–9075, 2007), microfluidics (Nie et al., J Am Chem Soc 128(29):9408–9412, 2006) or glancing angle deposition (Pawar and Kretzschmar, Langmuir 24(2):355–358, 2008; Pawar and Kretzschmar, Langmuir 25(16):9057–9063, 2009). However, shape-specific particle fabrication becomes more challenging when the particle has to be decorated with a large number of patches or if the shape and location of the patches has to be tuned and controlled with extremely high precision. Therefore, even though novel and interesting structures appear to be theoretically possible, they still remain hard to realize experimentally, given the precision required to achieve precise shape and relative orientation of the patches. Another extremely interesting class of functionalized particles is represented by DNA coated colloids, where colloids are covered with a brush of double stranded DNA terminating into a short segment of single stranded DNA. The terminal part of the brush is functionalized to attach only to complementary DNA strands. Such a high selectivity in the hybridization should, on the one hand, allow for an extremely precise tuning of the final structure that the colloid is designed to self assemble into but, on the other hand, it also induces a dynamical trapping into metastable structures. It has been shown that, in order to control and reduce the disordered region in the phase diagram of DNA coated colloids, it is necessary to re-introduce some entropy (Mognetti et al., Soft Matter 8(7):2213–2221, 2012; Angioletti-Uberti et al., Nat Mater 11(6):518–522, 2012).



B. C. acknowledges support from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) through her APART Fellowship No. 11723.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di ScienzeUniversità degli Studi “Roma Tre”RomaItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of PhysicsUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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