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Flexible Colloidal Molecules with Directional Bonds and Controlled Flexibility

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posted on 2023-06-26, 17:35 authored by Yogesh Shelke, Fabrizio Camerin, Susana Marín-Aguilar, Ruben W. Verweij, Marjolein Dijkstra, Daniela J. Kraft
Colloidal molecules are ideal model systems for mimicking real molecules and can serve as versatile building blocks for the bottom-up self-assembly of flexible and smart materials. While most colloidal molecules are rigid objects, the development of colloidal joints has made it possible to endow them with conformational flexibility. However, their unrestricted range of motion does not capture the limited movement and bond directionality that is instead typical of real molecules. In this work, we create flexible colloidal molecules with an in situ controllable motion range and bond directionality by assembling spherical particles onto cubes functionalized with complementary surface-mobile DNA. By varying the sphere-to-cube size ratio, we obtain colloidal molecules with different coordination numbers and find that they feature a constrained range of motion above a critical size ratio. Using theory and simulations, we show that the particle shape together with the multivalent bonds creates an effective free-energy landscape for the motion of the sphere on the surface of the cube. We quantify the confinement of the spheres on the surface of the cube and the probability to change facet. We find that temperature can be used as an extra control parameter to switch in situ between full and constrained flexibility. These flexible colloidal molecules with a temperature switching motion range can be used to investigate the effect of directional yet flexible bonds in determining their self-assembly and phase behavior, and may be employed as constructional units in microrobotics and smart materials.