Sacanna Group's Tiny Transformers. "Shape-Shifting Colloids via Stimulated Dewetting" in Nature Communications

Sacanna.jpgStefano Sacanna and his group have turned "the tiniest of particles from inflexible, Lego-like pieces into ones that can transform themselves into a range of shapes," as described by the lead author of this recent study.  The research was published in an article called "Shape-Shifting Colloids via Stimulated Dewetting" in the July Nature Communications (doi:10.1038/ncomms12216).

Abstract: The ability to reconfigure elementary building blocks from one structure to another is key to many biological systems. Bringing the intrinsic adaptability of biological systems to traditional synthetic materials is currently one of the biggest scientific challenges in material engineering. Here we introduce a new design concept for the experimental realization of self-assembling systems with built-in shape-shifting elements. We demonstrate that dewetting forces between an oil phase and solid colloidal substrates can be exploited to engineer shape-shifting particles whose geometry can be changed on demand by a chemical or optical signal. We find this approach to be quite general and applicable to a broad spectrum of materials, including polymers, semiconductors and magnetic materials. This synthetic methodology can be further adopted as a new experimental platform for designing and rapidly prototyping functional colloids, such as reconfigurable micro swimmers, colloidal surfactants and switchable building blocks for self-assembly.

The study was highlighted in NYU Research Digest: Tiny Transformers: Chemists Create Microscopic and Malleable Building Blocks and picked up by AAAS EurekAlert, AZO Materials, and other publications, and was featured on July 18th in NSF News From the Field.  In addition to Sacanna, the authors of the study include Mena Youssef and Theodore Hueckel, graduate students in Sacanna's Lab in NYU Chemistry's Molecular Design Institute, and Gi-Ra Yi, of Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation grants and its MRSEC Program, as well as the NRF of Korea.

Updated on 12/23/2016