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Issue 6, 2009
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Self-assembly: from crystals to cells

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Self-assembly (SA) is the process in which a system's components—be it molecules, polymers, colloids, or macroscopic particles—organize into ordered and/or functional structures without human intervention. The main challenge in SA research is the ability to “program” the properties of the individual pieces such that they organize into a desired structure. Although a general strategy for doing so is still elusive, heuristic rules can be formulated that guide design of SA under various conditions and thermodynamic constraints. This Review examines SA in both the equilibrium and non-equilibrium/dynamic systems and discusses different SA modalities: energy driven, entropy-driven, templated, and field-directed. Non-equilibrium SA is discussed as a route to reconfigurable (“adaptive”) materials, and its connection to biological systems is emphasized.

Graphical abstract: Self-assembly: from crystals to cells

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Article information

30 Oct 2008
08 Dec 2008
First published
18 Feb 2009

Soft Matter, 2009,5, 1110-1128
Article type
Tutorial Review

Self-assembly: from crystals to cells

B. A. Grzybowski, C. E. Wilmer, J. Kim, K. P. Browne and K. J. M. Bishop, Soft Matter, 2009, 5, 1110
DOI: 10.1039/B819321P

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