Colloidal joints with designed motion range and tunable joint flexibility†
The miniaturization of machines towards the micron and nanoscale requires the development of joint-like elements that enable and constrain motion. We present a facile method to create colloidal joints, that is, anisotropic colloidal particles functionalized with surface mobile DNA linkers that control the motion range of bonded particles. We demonstrate quantitatively that we can control the flexibility of these colloidal joints by tuning the DNA linker concentration in the bond area. We show that the shape of the colloidal joint controls the range of motion of bonded particles through a maximisation of the bond area. Using spheres, cubes, and dumbbells, we experimentally realize spherical joints, planar sliders, and hinges, respectively. Finally we demonstrate the potential of the colloidal joints for programmable bottom-up self-assembly by creating flexible colloidal molecules and colloidal polymers. The reconfigurability and motion constraint offered by our colloidal joints make them promising building blocks for the development of switchable materials and nanorobots.