Spontaneous assembly of a hybrid crystal-liquid phase in inverse patchy colloid systems†
Materials with well-defined architectures are heavily sought after in view of their diverse technological applications. Among the desired target architectures, lamellar phases stand out for their exceptional mechanical and optical features. Here we show that charged colloids, decorated on their poles with two oppositely charged regions possess the unusual ability to spontaneously assemble in different morphologies of (semi-)ordered, layered particle arrangements which maintain their structural stability over a surprisingly large temperature range. This remarkable capacity is related to a characteristic bonding mechanism: stable intra-layer bonds guarantee the formation of planar aggregates, while strong inter-layer bonds favor the stacking of the emerging planar assemblies. These two types of bonds together are responsible for the self-healing processes occurring during the spontaneous assembly. The resulting phases are characterized by parallel, densely packed, particle layers connected by a relatively small number of intra-layer particles. We investigate the properties of the (semi-)ordered phases in terms of static and dynamic correlation functions, focusing in particular on a novel hybrid crystal-liquid phase that prevails at intermediate temperatures where the inter-layer particles form a mobile, fluid phase.