Organized assemblies of colloids formed at the poles of micrometer-sized droplets of liquid crystal.
ABSTRACT: We report on the formation of organized assemblies of 1 ?m-in-diameter colloids (polystyrene (PS)) at the poles of water-dispersed droplets (diameters 7-20 ?m) of nematic liquid crystal (LC). For 4-cyano-4'-pentylbiphenyl droplets decorated with two to five PS colloids, we found 32 distinct arrangements of the colloids to form at the boojums of bipolar droplet configurations. Significantly, all but one of these configurations (a ring comprised of five PS colloids) could be mapped onto a local (non-close packed) hexagonal lattice. To provide insight into the origin of the hexagonal lattice, we investigated planar aqueous-LC interfaces, and found that organized assemblies of PS colloids did not form at these interfaces. Experiments involving the addition of salts revealed that a repulsive interaction of electrostatic origin prevented formation of assemblies at planar interfaces, and that regions of high splay near the poles of the LC droplets generated cohesive interactions between colloids that could overcome the repulsion. Support for this interpretation was obtained from a model that included (i) a long-range attraction between adsorbed colloids and the boojum due to the increasing rate of strain (splay) of LC near the boojum (splay attraction), (ii) an attractive inter-colloid interaction that reflects the quadrupolar symmetry of the strain in the LC around the colloids, and (iii) electrostatic repulsion between colloids. The model predicts that electrostatic repulsion between colloids can lead to a ?1000kBT energy barrier at planar interfaces of LC films, and that the repulsive interaction can be overcome by splay attraction of the colloids to the boojums of the LC droplets. Overall, the results reported in this paper advance our understanding of the directed assembly of colloids at interfaces of LC droplets.
Project description:This feature article describes recent advances in several areas of research involving the interfacial ordering of liquid crystals (LCs). The first advance revolves around the ordering of LCs at bio/chemically functionalized surfaces. Whereas the majority of past studies of surface-induced ordering of LCs have involved surfaces of solids that present a limited diversity of chemical functional groups (surfaces at which van der Waals forces dominate surface-induced ordering), recent studies have moved to investigate the ordering of LCs on chemically complex surfaces. For example, surfaces decorated with biomolecules (e.g., oligopeptides and proteins) and transition-metal ions have been investigated, leading to an understanding of the roles that metal-ligand coordination interactions, electrical double layers, acid-base interactions, and hydrogen bonding can play in the interfacial ordering of LCs. The opportunity to create chemically responsive LCs capable of undergoing ordering transitions in the presence of targeted molecular events (e.g., ligand exchange around a metal center) has emerged from these fundamental studies. A second advance has focused on investigations of the ordering of LCs at interfaces with immiscible isotropic fluids, particularly water. In contrast to prior studies of surface-induced ordering of LCs on solid surfaces, LC-aqueous interfaces are deformable and molecules at these interfaces exhibit high levels of mobility and thus can reorganize in response to changes in the interfacial environment. A range of fundamental investigations involving these LC-aqueous interfaces have revealed that (i) the spatial and temporal characteristics of assemblies formed from biomolecular interactions can be reported by surface-driven ordering transitions in the LCs, (ii) the interfacial phase behavior of molecules and colloids can be coupled to (and manipulated via) the ordering (and nematic elasticity) of LCs, and (iii) the confinement of LCs leads to unanticipated size-dependent ordering (particularly in the context of LC emulsion droplets). The third and final advance addressed in this article involves interactions between colloids mediated by LCs. Recent experiments involving microparticles deposited at the LC-aqueous interface have revealed that LC-mediated interactions can drive interfacial assemblies of particles through reversible ordering transitions (e.g., from 1D chains to 2D arrays with local hexagonal symmetry). In addition, recent single-nanoparticle measurements suggest that the ordering of LCs about nanoparticles differs substantially from micrometer-sized particles and that the interactions between nanoparticles mediated by the LCs are far weaker than predicted by theory (sufficiently weak that the interactions are reversible and thus enable self-assembly). Finally, LC-mediated interactions between colloidal particles have also been shown to lead to the formation of colloid-in-LC gels that possess mechanical properties relevant to the design of materials that interface with living biological systems. Overall, these three topics serve to illustrate the broad opportunities that exist to do fundamental interfacial science and discovery-oriented research involving LCs.
Project description:Bacteria often inhabit and exhibit distinct dynamical behaviors at interfaces, but the physical mechanisms by which interfaces cue bacteria are still poorly understood. In this work, we use interfaces formed between coexisting isotropic and liquid crystal (LC) phases to provide insight into how mechanical anisotropy and defects in LC ordering influence fundamental bacterial behaviors. Specifically, we measure the anisotropic elasticity of the LC to change fundamental behaviors of motile, rod-shaped Proteus mirabilis cells (3 ?m in length) adsorbed to the LC interface, including the orientation, speed, and direction of motion of the cells (the cells follow the director of the LC at the interface), transient multicellular self-association, and dynamical escape from the interface. In this latter context, we measure motile bacteria to escape from the interfaces preferentially into the isotropic phase, consistent with the predicted effects of an elastic penalty associated with strain of the LC about the bacteria when escape occurs into the nematic phase. We also observe boojums (surface topological defects) present at the interfaces of droplets of nematic LC (tactoids) to play a central role in mediating the escape of motile bacteria from the LC interface. Whereas the bacteria escape the interface of nematic droplets via a mechanism that involved nematic director-guided motion through one of the two boojums, for isotropic droplets in a continuous nematic phase, the elasticity of the LC generally prevented single bacteria from escaping. Instead, assemblies of bacteria piled up at boojums and escape occurred through a cooperative, multicellular phenomenon. Overall, our studies show that the dynamical behaviors of motile bacteria at anisotropic LC interfaces can be understood within a conceptual framework that reflects the interplay of LC elasticity, surface-induced order, and topological defects.
Project description:Self-limited, or terminal, supraparticles have long received great interest because of their abundance in biological systems (DNA bundles and virus capsids) and their potential use in a host of applications ranging from photonics and catalysis to encapsulation for drug delivery. Moreover, soft, uniform colloidal aggregates are a promising candidate for quasicrystal and other hierarchical assemblies. In this work, we present a generic coarse-grained model that captures the formation of self-limited assemblies observed in various soft-matter systems including nanoparticles, colloids, and polyelectrolytes. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that the assembly process is self-limited when the repulsion between the particles is renormalized to balance their attraction during aggregation. The uniform finite-sized aggregates are further shown to be thermodynamically stable and tunable with a single dimensionless parameter. We find large aggregates self-organize internally into a core-shell morphology and exhibit anomalous uniformity when the constituent nanoparticles have a polydisperse size distribution.
Project description:The spontaneous positioning of colloids on the surfaces of micrometer-sized liquid crystalline droplets and their subsequent polymerization offers the basis of a general and facile method for the synthesis of patchy microparticles. The existence of multiple local energetic minima, however, can generate kinetic traps for colloids on the surfaces of the liquid crystal (LC) droplets and result in heterogeneous populations of patchy microparticles. To address this issue, here we demonstrate that adsorbate-driven switching of the internal configurations of LC droplets can be used to sweep colloids to a single location on the LC droplet surfaces, thus resulting in the synthesis of homogeneous populations of patchy microparticles. The surface-driven switching of the LC can be triggered by addition of surfactant or salts, and permits the synthesis of dipolar microparticles as well as "Janus-like" microparticles. By using magnetic colloids, we illustrate the utility of the approach by synthesizing magnetically-responsive patchy microdroplets of LC with either dipolar or quadrupolar symmetry that exhibit distinct optical responses upon application of an external magnetic field.
Project description:We report the use of liquid crystal (LC)-in-water emulsions for the synthesis of either spherical or non-spherical particles with chemically distinct domains located at the poles of the particles. The approach involves the localization of solid colloids at topological defects that form predictably at surfaces of water-dispersed LC droplets. By polymerizing the LC droplets displaying the colloids at their surface defects, we demonstrate formation of both spherical and, upon extraction of the mesogen, anisotropic composite particles with colloids located at either one or both of the poles. Because the colloids protrude from the surfaces of the particles, they also define organized, chemical patches with functionality controlled by the colloid surface.
Project description:Colloids self-assemble into various organized superstructures determined by particle interactions. There is tremendous progress in both the scientific understanding and the applications of self-assemblies of single-type identical particles. Forming superstructures in which the colloidal particles occupy predesigned sites and remain in these sites despite thermal fluctuations represents a major challenge of the current state of the art. We propose a versatile approach to directing placement of colloids using nematic liquid crystals with spatially varying molecular orientation preimposed by substrate photoalignment. Colloidal particles in a nematic environment are subject to the long-range elastic forces originating in the orientational order of the nematic. Gradients of the orientational order create an elastic energy landscape that drives the colloids into locations with preferred type of deformations. As an example, we demonstrate that colloidal spheres with perpendicular surface anchoring are driven into the regions of maximum splay, whereas spheres with tangential surface anchoring settle into the regions of bend. Elastic forces responsible for preferential placement are measured by exploring overdamped dynamics of the colloids. Control of colloidal self-assembly through patterned molecular orientation opens new opportunities for designing materials and devices in which particles should be placed in predesigned locations.
Project description:Controlled, dynamic movement of materials through noncontacting forces provides interesting opportunities in systems design. Confinement of magnetic nanoparticles to the interfaces of double emulsions introduces exceptional control of double emulsion movement. We report the selective magnetic functionalization of emulsions by the in situ selective reactions of amine-functionalized magnetic nanoparticles and oil-soluble aldehydes at only one of the double emulsion's interfaces. We demonstrate morphology-dependent macroscopic ferromagnetic behavior of emulsions induced by the interfacial confinement of the magnetic nanoparticles. The attraction and repulsion of the emulsions to applied magnetic fields results in controlled orientation changes and rotational movement. Furthermore, incorporation of liquid crystals into the double emulsions adds additional templating capabilities for precision assembly of magnetic nanoparticles, both along the interface and at point defects. Applying a magnetic field to liquid crystal complex emulsions can produce movement as well as reorganization of the director field in the droplets. The combination of interfacial chemistry and precise assembly of magnetic particles creates new systems with potentially useful field-responsive properties.
Project description:Strain-relief pattern formation in heteroepitaxy is well understood for particles with long-range attraction and is a routinely exploited organizational principle for atoms and molecules. However, for particles with short-range attraction such as colloids and nanoparticles, which form brittle assemblies, the mechanism(s) of strain-relief is not known. Here, we found that for colloids with short-range attraction, monolayer films on substrates with square symmetry could accommodate large compressive misfit strains through locally dewetted hexagonally ordered stripes. Unexpectedly, over a window of compressive strains, cooperative particle rearrangements first resulted in a periodic strain-relief pattern, which then guided the growth of laterally ordered defect-free colloidal crystals. Particle-resolved imaging of monomer dynamics on strained substrates also helped uncover cooperative kinetic pathways for surface transport. These processes, which substantially influenced the film morphology, have remained unobserved in atomic heteroepitaxy studies hitherto. Leaning on our findings, we developed a heteroepitaxy approach for fabricating hierarchically ordered surface structures.
Project description:We demonstrate that the assembly of an amphiphilic polyamine on the interfaces of micrometer-sized droplets of a thermotropic liquid crystal (LC) dispersed in aqueous solutions can be used to facilitate the immobilization of LC droplets on chemically functionalized surfaces. Polymer 1 was designed to contain both hydrophobic (alkyl-functionalized) and hydrophilic (primary and tertiary amine-functionalized) side chain functionality. The assembly of this polymer at the interfaces of aqueous dispersions of LC droplets was achieved by the spontaneous adsorption of polymer from aqueous solution. Polymer adsorption triggered transitions in the orientational ordering of the LCs, as observed by polarized light and bright-field microscopy. We demonstrate that the presence of polymer 1 on the interfaces of these droplets can be exploited to immobilize LC droplets on planar solid surfaces through covalent bond formation (e.g., for surfaces coated with polymer multilayers containing reactive azlactone functionality) or through electrostatic interactions (e.g., for surfaces coated with multilayers containing hydrolyzed azlactone functionality). The characterization of immobilized LC droplets by polarized, fluorescence, and laser scanning confocal microscopy revealed the general spherical shape of the polymer-coated LC droplets to be maintained after immobilization, and that immobilization led to additional ordering transitions within the droplets that were dependent on the nature of the surfaces with which they were in contact. Polymer 1-functionalized LC droplets were not immobilized on polymer multilayers treated with poly(ethylene imine) (PEI). We demonstrate that the ability to design surfaces that promote or prevent the immobilization of polymer-functionalized LC droplets can be exploited to pattern the immobilization of LC droplets on surfaces. The results of this investigation provide the basis of an approach that could be used to tailor the properties of dispersed LC emulsions and to immobilize these droplets on functional surfaces of interest in a broad range of fundamental and applied contexts.
Project description:Confined liquid crystals (LC) provide a unique platform for technological applications and for the study of LC properties, such as bulk elasticity, surface anchoring, and topological defects. In this work, lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals (LCLCs) are confined in spherical droplets, and their director configurations are investigated as a function of mesogen concentration using bright-field and polarized optical microscopy. Because of the unusually small twist elastic modulus of the nematic phase of LCLCs, droplets of this phase exhibit a twisted bipolar configuration with remarkably large chiral symmetry breaking. Further, the hexagonal ordering of columns and the resultant strong suppression of twist and splay but not bend deformation in the columnar phase, cause droplets of this phase to adopt a concentric director configuration around a central bend disclination line and, at sufficiently high mesogen concentration, to exhibit surface faceting. Observations of director configurations are consistent with Jones matrix calculations and are understood theoretically to be a result of the giant elastic anisotropy of LCLCs.