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  1. Abstract

    Synthesizing patchy particles with predictive control over patch size, shape, placement and number has been highly sought-after for nanoparticle assembly research, but is fraught with challenges. Here we show that polymers can be designed to selectively adsorb onto nanoparticle surfaces already partially coated by other chains to drive the formation of patchy nanoparticles with broken symmetry. In our model system of triangular gold nanoparticles and polystyrene-b-polyacrylic acid patch, single- and double-patch nanoparticles are produced at high yield. These asymmetric single-patch nanoparticles are shown to assemble into self-limited patch‒patch connected bowties exhibiting intriguing plasmonic properties. To unveil the mechanism of symmetry-breaking patch formation, we develop a theory that accurately predicts our experimental observations at all scales—from patch patterning on nanoparticles, to the size/shape of the patches, to the particle assemblies driven by patch‒patch interactions. Both the experimental strategy and theoretical prediction extend to nanoparticles of other shapes such as octahedra and bipyramids. Our work provides an approach to leverage polymer interactions with nanoscale curved surfaces for asymmetric grafting in nanomaterials engineering.

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