Shaken and Stirred to Order

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Science  27 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5530, pp. 575
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5530.575c

The fabrication of structured materials usually can be described as top-down or bottom-up, reflecting utilization of a lithographic patterning approach or self-assembly technique, respectively. The self-assembly of smaller objects into larger entities is particularly attractive due to the anticipated capacity to form three-dimensional structures rapidly and cheaply. Although self-assembly has proven successful for subunits of nanometer and millimeter sizes, the fabrication of three-dimensional structures with periodicity on the scale of optical wavelengths (i.e., micrometer-sized subunits) has been difficult to realize.

Clark et al. describe a hybrid technique using lithographically patterned, 10- to 30-micrometer-sized polyhedral metal plates, the faces of which have been functionalized with a monolayer of either hydrophobic or hydrophilic molecules. When placed in water and agitated, the pieces assemble themselves into ordered three-dimensional arrangements. Controlling the geometry and chemical properties of each face is expected to provide a broad parameter space that will allow a tailoring of flexibility and the interactions between pieces in the final structure. — ISO

J. Am. Chem. Soc., 10.1021/ja010641.

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