Supracolloidal fullerene-like cages: design principles and formation mechanisms†
How to create novel desired structures by rational design of building blocks represents a significant challenge in materials science. Here we report a conceptually new design principle for creating supracolloidal fullerene-like cages through the self-assembly of soft patchy particles interacting via directional nonbonded interactions by mimicking non-planar sp2 hybridized carbon atoms in C60. Our numerical investigations demonstrate that the rational design of patch configuration, size, and interaction can drive soft three-patch particles to reversibly self-assemble into a vast collection of supracolloidal fullerene-like cages. We further elucidate the formation mechanisms of supracolloidal fullerene-like cages by analyzing the structural characteristics and the formation process. Our results provide conceptual and practical guidance towards the experimental realization of supracolloidal fullerene-like cages, as well as a new perspective on understanding the fullerene formation mechanisms.