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Self-Assembly Dynamics of Reconfigurable Colloidal Molecules

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-01-26, 15:42 authored by Indrani Chakraborty, Daniel J. G. Pearce, Ruben W. Verweij, Sabine C. Matysik, Luca Giomi, Daniela J. Kraft
Colloidal molecules are designed to mimic their molecular analogues through their anisotropic shape and interactions. However, current experimental realizations are missing the structural flexibility present in real molecules thereby restricting their use as model systems. We overcome this limitation by assembling reconfigurable colloidal molecules from silica particles functionalized with mobile DNA linkers in high yields. We achieve this by steering the self-assembly pathway toward the formation of finite-sized clusters by employing high number ratios of particles functionalized with complementary DNA strands. The size ratio of the two species of particles provides control over the overall cluster size, i.e., the number of bound particles N, as well as the degree of reconfigurability. The bond flexibility provided by the mobile linkers allows the successful assembly of colloidal clusters with the geometrically expected maximum number of bound particles and shape. We quantitatively examine the self-assembly dynamics of these flexible colloidal molecules by a combination of experiments, agent-based simulations, and an analytical model. Our “flexible colloidal molecules” are exciting building blocks for investigating and exploiting the self-assembly of complex hierarchical structures, photonic crystals, and colloidal metamaterials.