Two-dimensional crystals of star polymers: a tale of tails†
The formation of non-hexagonal crystalline structures by the organisation of colloidal nanoparticles often involves the use of complex particles with anisotropic shape or interactions or the imposition of non-uniform external fields. Here we explore how unusual symmetries can be created using experimentally realistic particles that interact through isotropic and purely repulsive potentials. In particular, we use simulations to explore the phase behavior of two-dimensional systems of star polymers. We uncover how the tail of the pair potential has a large role in dictating the phase behavior. Star polymers interacting in the far field with a Gaussian potential only form hexagonal phases, while an exponential tail gives rise to stable primitive oblique and honeycomb lattices. We identify the ratio in strength between long and short range interactions and the nature of the transition between these regimes as crucial parameters to predict when non-hexagonal crystals of star polymers can be stable. This leads to experimental design rules for creating star polymers which should exhibit unusual lattice formation.