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Self-directed self-assembly of nanoparticle/copolymer mixtures


The organization of inorganic nanostructures within self-assembled organic or biological templates1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 is receiving the attention of scientists interested in developing functional hybrid materials. Previous efforts have concentrated on using such scaffolds7,9,12 to spatially arrange nanoscopic elements as a strategy for tailoring the electrical, magnetic or photonic properties8,9,10,11,13,14,15,16 of the material. Recent theoretical arguments16,17,18 have suggested that synergistic interactions between self-organizing particles and a self-assembling matrix material can lead to hierarchically ordered structures. Here we show that mixtures of diblock copolymers and either cadmium selenide- or ferritin-based nanoparticles exhibit cooperative, coupled self-assembly on the nanoscale. In thin films, the copolymers assemble into cylindrical domains, which dictate the spatial distribution of the nanoparticles; segregation of the particles to the interfaces mediates interfacial interactions and orients the copolymer domains normal to the surface, even when one of the blocks is strongly attracted to the substrate. Organization of both the polymeric and particulate entities is thus achieved without the use of external fields10,19, opening a simple and general route for fabrication of nanostructured materials with hierarchical order.

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Figure 1: SFM topography and phase images of thin films from pure PS-b-P2VP block copolymer and PS-b-P2VP–CdSe nanoparticle composites.
Figure 2: GISAXS data on the thin film of PS-b-P2VP–CdSe nanoparticle composites.
Figure 3: TEM and SEM images of thin films from pure PS-b-P2VP block copolymer and PS-b-P2VP–CdSe nanoparticle composites.
Figure 4: Optical microscopy and SFM images of thin films from pure P2VP-b-PEO block copolymer and P2VP-b-PEO–ferritin-PEG nanoparticle composites.


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We thank T. Xu, J. Sievert, K. Lavery, K. Schmidt, M. Hund, X. Hu, H. Skaff and J. Hirsch for their assistance with the experiments. This work was supported by the US Department of Energy, the NSF-supported MRSEC at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the NSF Collaborative Research in Chemistry Program, the NSF Career Award, the Army Research Office through a MURI, the NSF CRC programme, and the MAX KADE Foundation. The Advanced Photon Source is supported by the US Department of Energy.

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Correspondence to Thomas P. Russell.

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Lin, Y., Böker, A., He, J. et al. Self-directed self-assembly of nanoparticle/copolymer mixtures. Nature 434, 55–59 (2005).

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