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Reversible microscale assembly of nanoparticles driven by the phase transition of a thermotropic liquid crystal

submitted on 12.12.2017, 00:00 and posted on 12.12.2017, 19:11 by Niamh Mac Fhionnlaoich, Stephen Schrettl, Nicholas B. Tito, Ye Yang, Malavika Nair, Luis A. Serrano, Kellen Harkness, Paulo Jacob Silva, Holger Frauenrath, Francesco Stellacci, Stefan Guldin
The arrangement of nanoscale building blocks into patterns with microscale periodicity is challenging to achieve via self-assembly processes. Here, we report on the phase transition-driven collective assembly of gold nanoparticles in a thermotropic liquid crystal. A temperature-induced transition from the isotropic to the nematic phase leads to the assembly of individual nanometre-sized particles into arrays of micrometre-sized aggregates, whose size and characteristic spacing can be tuned by varying the cooling rate. This fully reversible process offers hierarchical control over structural order on the molecular, nanoscopic, and microscopic level and is an interesting model system for the programmable patterning of nanocomposites with access to micrometre-sized periodicities.


NMF acknowledges funding by the EPSRC under a Doctoral Training Partnership. YY is grateful to University College London for support through an Overseas Research Scholarship. LSG acknowledges funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 633635 (DIACHEMO). NBT is grateful for financial support from the 4TU.High-Tech Materials research programme `New Horizons in designer materials' ( SG is grateful for support by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Fellowship LPDS2012-13 and by a start-up fund from University College London.



  • Liquid Crystals
  • Nanostructured Materials
  • Materials Processing
  • Composites

Email Address of Submitting Author


University College London


United Kingdom

ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.