A Colloidal Erector Set

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Science  13 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5916, pp. 855
DOI: 10.1126/science.323.5916.855c

Colloidal particles are often used as analogs to atoms for studying the glassy behavior and crystallization of solids. Just as atoms bond together to form molecules with a range of bond types and strengths, Kraft et al. brought colloidal particles together with variations in the bonding motifs. Specifically, they used cross-linked polystyrene particles that were swollen with styrene monomer, causing the monomer to phase-separate and form a protrusion on the surface of the particle. Through variations in the swelling ratio of the particle or the hydrophilicity of the particle surface, the expelled monomer could be tuned to either fully coat the particle or to form an aspherical protrusion at only one place on the surface. When these colloidal particles in solution interacted with each other, the liquid protrusions merged and could be subsequently polymerized, bonding the particles together. The overall shape depended on the ratio of monomer to particle. — MSL

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 10.1021/ja8079803 (2009).

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