skip to main content

Title: Macroscopic photonic single crystals via seeded growth of DNA-coated colloids

Photonic crystals—a class of materials whose optical properties derive from their structure in addition to their composition—can be created by self-assembling particles whose sizes are comparable to the wavelengths of visible light. Proof-of-principle studies have shown that DNA can be used to guide the self-assembly of micrometer-sized colloidal particles into fully programmable crystal structures with photonic properties in the visible spectrum. However, the extremely temperature-sensitive kinetics of micrometer-sized DNA-functionalized particles has frustrated attempts to grow large, monodisperse crystals that are required for photonic metamaterial applications. Here we describe a robust two-step protocol for self-assembling single-domain crystals that contain millions of optical-scale DNA-functionalized particles: Monodisperse crystals are initially assembled in monodisperse droplets made by microfluidics, after which they are grown to macroscopic dimensions via seeded diffusion-limited growth. We demonstrate the generality of our approach by assembling different macroscopic single-domain photonic crystals with metamaterial properties, like structural coloration, that depend on the underlying crystal structure. By circumventing the fundamental kinetic traps intrinsic to crystallization of optical-scale DNA-coated colloids, we eliminate a key barrier to engineering photonic devices from DNA-programmed materials.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. DNA-coated colloids can self-assemble into an incredible diversity of crystal structures, but their applications have been limited by poor understanding and control over the crystallization dynamics. To address this challenge, we use microfluidics to quantify the kinetics of DNA-programmed self-assembly along the entire crystallization pathway, from thermally activated nucleation through reaction-limited and diffusion-limited phases of crystal growth. Our detailed measurements of the temperature and concentration dependence of the kinetics at all stages of crystallization provide a stringent test of classical theories of nucleation and growth. After accounting for the finite rolling and sliding rates of micrometer-sized DNA-coated colloids, we show that modified versions of these classical theories predict the absolute nucleation and growth rates with quantitative accuracy. We conclude by applying our model to design and demonstrate protocols for assembling large single crystals with pronounced structural coloration, an essential step in creating next-generation optical metamaterials from colloids. 
    more » « less
  2. Starting with Gauss and Kelvin, knots in fields were postulated to behave like particles, but experimentally they were found only as transient features or required complex boundary conditions to exist and could not self-assemble into three-dimensional crystals. We introduce energetically stable, micrometer-sized knots in helical fields of chiral liquid crystals. While spatially localized and freely diffusing in all directions, they resemble colloidal particles and atoms, self-assembling into crystalline lattices with open and closed structures. These knots are robust and topologically distinct from the host medium, though they can be morphed and reconfigured by weak stimuli under conditions such as those in displays. A combination of energy-minimizing numerical modeling and optical imaging uncovers the internal structure and topology of individual helical field knots and the various hierarchical crystalline organizations that they form. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Colloidal assembly is an attractive means to control material properties via hierarchy of particle composition, size, ordering, and macroscopic form. However, despite well‐established methods for assembling colloidal crystals as films and patterns on substrates, and within microscale confinements such as droplets or microwells, it has not been possible to build freeform colloidal crystal structures. Direct‐write colloidal assembly, a process combining the bottom‐up principle of colloidal self‐assembly with the versatility of direct‐write 3D printing, is introduced in the present study. By this method, centimeter‐scale, free‐standing colloidal structures are built from a variety of materials. A scaling law that governs the rate of assembly is derived; macroscale structural color is tailored via the size and crystalline ordering of polystyrene particles, and several freestanding structures are built from silica and gold particles. Owing to the diversity of colloidal building blocks and the means to control their interactions, direct‐write colloidal assembly could therefore enable novel composites, photonics, electronics, and other materials and devices.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Photonic crystals are extensively explored to replace inorganic pigments and organic dyes as coloring elements in printing, painting, sensing, and anti‐counterfeiting due to their brilliant structural colors, chemical stability, and environmental friendliness. However, most existing photonic‐crystal‐based pigments can only display monochromatic colors once made, and generating multicolors has to start with designing different building blocks. Here, a novel photonic pigment featuring highly tunable structural colors in the entire visible spectrum, made by the magnetic assembly of monodisperse nanorods into body‐centered‐tetragonal photonic crystals, is reported. Their prominent magnetic and crystal anisotropy makes it efficient to generate multicolors using one photonic pigment by magnetically controlling the crystal orientation. Further, the combination of angle‐dependent diffraction and magnetic orientation control enables the design of rotation‐asymmetric photonic films that display distinct patterns and encrypted information in response to rotation. The efficient multicolor generation through precise orientational control makes this novel photonic pigment promising in developing high‐performance structural‐colored materials and optical devices.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The unique optical properties of transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) monolayers have attracted significant attention for both photonics applications and fundamental studies of low-dimensional systems. TMD monolayers of high optical quality, however, have been limited to micron-sized flakes produced by low-throughput and labour-intensive processes, whereas large-area films are often affected by surface defects and large inhomogeneity. Here we report a rapid and reliable method to synthesize macroscopic-scale TMD monolayers of uniform, high optical quality. Using 1-dodecanol encapsulation combined with gold-tape-assisted exfoliation, we obtain monolayers with lateral size > 1 mm, exhibiting exciton energy, linewidth, and quantum yield uniform over the whole area and close to those of high-quality micron-sized flakes. We tentatively associate the role of the two molecular encapsulating layers as isolating the TMD from the substrate and passivating the chalcogen vacancies, respectively. We demonstrate the utility of our encapsulated monolayers by scalable integration with an array of photonic crystal cavities, creating polariton arrays with enhanced light-matter coupling strength. This work provides a pathway to achieving high-quality two-dimensional materials over large areas, enabling research and technology development beyond individual micron-sized devices.

    more » « less