Self Assembly of Soft Matter Quasicrystals and Their Approximants

Posted by on Monday, October 31, 2011 in Recent Publications.


Iacovella CR*, Keys AS*, Glotzer SC (*authors contributed equally) (2011) Self Assembly of Soft Matter Quasicrystals and Their Approximants, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, In Press



The surprising recent discoveries of quasicrystals and their approximants in soft matter systems poses the intriguing possibility that these structures can be realized in a broad range of nano- and micro-scale assemblies. It has been theorized that soft matter quasicrystals and approximants are largely entropically stabilized, but the thermodynamic mechanism underlying their formation remains elusive. Here, we use computer simulation and free energy calculations to demonstrate a simple design heuristic for assembling quasicrystals and approximants in soft matter systems. Our study builds on previous simulation studies of the self-assembly of dodecagonal quasicrystals and approximants in minimal systems of spherical particles with complex, highly-specific interaction potentials. We demonstrate an alternative entropy-based approach for assembling dodecagonal quasicrystals and approximants based solely on particle functionalization and shape, thereby recasting the interaction-potential-based assembly strategy in terms of simpler-to-achieve bonded and excluded-volume interactions. Here, spherical building blocks are functionalized with mobile surface entities to encourage the formation of structures with low surface contact area, including non-close-packed and polytetrahedral structures. The building blocks also possess shape polydispersity, where a subset of the building blocks deviate from the ideal spherical shape, discouraging the formation of close-packed crystals. We show that three different model systems with both of these features — mobile surface entities and shape polydispersity — consistently assemble quasicrystals and/or approximants. We argue that this design strategy can be widely exploited to assemble quasicrystals and approximants on the nano- and micro- scales. In addition, our results further elucidate the formation of soft matter quasicrystals in experiment.

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