Thursday, 10 October 2013 09:18

Designing Self-Assembling Systems

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The basic principles for processing a raw material has always been controlling chemical mixing, temperature cycling, etc. The function of an end product is then created by cutting, forging and imposing a form on the material at the macroscopic level. This two-step paradigm is about to change. Our recently acquired capability to synthesize nanoscale particles with almost arbitrary shape and interactions has opened up for self-assembly of complex structures and novel metamaterials. For the first time in history we have direct control over the building blocks that form the material itself and determine its characteristics. However, we are still far from the fine-tuned mechanisms for self-organization designed by evolution. Most work on self-assembly is experimental or simulation-based, but to reach further and design self-assembling systems rivaling those in nature, we cannot rely on trial and error or rules of thumb. In our projects we therefore focus on theoretical methods for understanding and controlling self-assembly. For example, we have shown that both prediction and design is possible in one-component systems with isotropic interactions. We, among other things, devised a method that allowed us to find a design for the first self-assembly of a chiral lattice (crystal structure breaking mirror symmetry) from rotationally symmetric particles.

We are also working on particles with anisotropic interactions in the form of patchy colloids, micrometer sized particles covered with interacting patches. We have both developed a method for predicting patch formation on colloids and studied the use of patchy colloids as building blocks for self-assembly.

Read 1886 times Last modified on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 07:18
Erik Edlund

Erik Edlund is a PhD-student in the Complex Systems group since 2010 and works mainly on developing theory for self-assembling systems. This field aims for a fundamental shift in materials science and fabrication by moving the focus from top-down techniques to a method where constituents are designed such that they spontaneously form desired structures. The group uses a combination of analytically solvable models from statistical physics and Monte Carlo simulations. Erik lectures in the course Simulation of Complex Systems.

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