Precision nanoengineering for functional self-assemblies across length scales

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As nanotechnology continues to push the boundaries across disciplines, there is an increasing need for engineering nanomaterials with atomic-level precision for self-assembly across length scales, i.e., from the nanoscale to the macroscale. Although molecular self-assembly allows atomic precision, extending it beyond certain length scales presents a challenge. Therefore, the attention has turned to size and shape-controlled metal nanoparticles as building blocks for multifunctional colloidal self-assemblies. However, traditionally, metal nanoparticles suffer from polydispersity, uncontrolled aggregation, and inhomogeneous ligand distribution, resulting in heterogeneous end products. In this feature article, I will discuss how virus capsids provide clues for designing subunit-based, precise, efficient, and error-free self-assembly of colloidal molecules. The atomically precise nanoscale proteinic subunits of capsids display rigidity (conformational and structural) and patchy distribution of interacting sites. Recent experimental evidence suggests that atomically precise noble metal nanoclusters display an anisotropic distribution of ligands and patchy ligand bundles. This enables symmetry breaking, consequently offering a facile route for two-dimensional colloidal crystals, bilayers, and elastic monolayer membranes. Furthermore, inter-nanocluster interactions mediated via the ligand functional groups are versatile, offering routes for discrete supracolloidal capsids, composite cages, toroids, and macroscopic hierarchically porous frameworks. Therefore, engineered nanoparticles with atomically precise structures have the potential to overcome the limitations of molecular self-assembly and large colloidal particles. Self-assembly allows the emergence of new optical properties, mechanical strength, photothermal stability, catalytic efficiency, quantum yield, and biological properties. The self-assembled structures allow reproducible optoelectronic properties, mechanical performance, and accurate sensing. More importantly, the intrinsic properties of individual nanoclusters are retained across length scales. The atomically precise nanoparticles offer enormous potential for next-generation functional materials, optoelectronics, precision sensors, and photonic devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13800-13819
Number of pages20
JournalChemical Communications
Issue number93
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Catalysis
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • General Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Materials Chemistry


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