Nat Commun 2019 04 18;10(1):1815. Epub 2019 Apr 18.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, 61801, USA.
Colloids are mainly divided into two types defined by size. Micron-scale colloids are widely used as model systems to study phase transitions, while nanoparticles have physicochemical properties unique to their size. Here we study a promising yet underexplored third type: anisometric colloids, which integrate micrometer and nanometer dimensions into the same particle. We show that our prototypical system of anisometric silver plates with a high polydispersity assemble, unexpectedly, into an ordered, three-dimensional lattice. Real-time imaging and interaction modeling elucidate the crucial role of anisometry, which directs hierarchical assembly into secondary building blocks-columns-which are sufficiently monodisperse for further ordering. Ionic strength and plate tip morphology control the shape of the columns, and therefore the final lattice structures (hexagonal versus honeycomb). Our joint experiment-modeling study demonstrates potentials of encoding unconventional assembly in anisometric colloids, which can likely introduce properties and phase behaviors inaccessible to micron- or nanometer-scale colloids.