PerspectiveSelf-Assembled Materials

Supramolecular lattices from tetrahedral nanobuilding blocks

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Science  24 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6233, pp. 396-397
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0478

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The self-assembly and packing of nanoscale particles that have nonspherical shapes is only beginning to be explored. Recent computer simulations have suggested that hard, convex polyhedra can pack more densely than spheres, leading to complex structures of liquid crystals, plastic crystals, crystals, and disordered phases (1). In particular, aperiodic quasicrystalline and crystalline phases occur in the packing of tetrahedra, the simplest polyhedron (2). On page 424 of this issue, Huang et al. report the precise synthesis of rigid giant tetrahedra consisting of hydrophobic and hydrophilic polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) cages (3). They assemble a diverse range of highly ordered supramolecular lattices by exploiting the location of the hydrophilic POSS cage substituent and the number of substitutions, together with the interplay of crystallization and the collective hydrogen-bonding interactions.