Fabrication of Planar Colloidal Clusters with Template-Assisted Interfacial Assembly

The synthesis of nanoparticle clusters, also referred to as colloidal clusters or colloidal molecules, is being studied intensively as a model system for small molecule interactions as well as for the directed self-assembly of advanced materials. This paper describes a technique for the interfacial assembly of planar colloidal clusters using a combination of top-down lithographic surface modification and bottom-up Langmuir–Blodgett deposition. Micrometer sized polystyrene latex particles were deposited onto a chemically modified substrate from a decane–water interface with Langmuir–Blodgett deposition. The surface of the substrate contained hydrophilic domains of various size, spacing, and shape, while the remainder of the substrate was hydrophobic. Particles selectively deposited onto hydrophilic regions from the decane–water interface. The number of deposited particles depended on the size of each patch, thereby demonstrating that tuning cluster size is possible by engineering patch geometry. Following deposition, the clusters were permanently bonded with temperature annealing and then removed from the substrate via sonication. The permanently bonded planar colloidal clusters were stable in an aqueous environment and at a decane–water interface laden with isotropic colloidal particles. The method is a simple and fast way to synthesize colloidal clusters with few limitations on particle chemistry, composition, and shape.