Synthesis of sub-micrometer biphasic Au–AuGa2/liquid metal frameworks†
A novel biphasic sub-micrometer Au–AuGa2/liquid metal framework, consisting of solid nanoparticles encapsulating liquid metal (LM) droplets, is introduced. By utilizing oxide-free galvanic replacement of a Ga-alloy LM with alkaline KAuBr4, the controllable process of gold-based encapsulation of individual sub-micrometer LM droplets capped with polyvinylpyrrolidone, lysozyme or sodium alginate is demonstrated. The morphology, structure and composition of the encapsulated droplets are characterized in-depth via scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. For the first time, the existence of two kinetic regimes leading to the controllable synthesis of either intermetallic AuGa2 or Au nanoparticles to encapsulate LM droplets is highlighted via the study of the evolution of the pH of the reaction medium. The as-formed biphasic sub-micrometer Au–LM frameworks demonstrate moderate stability in an aqueous environment and formidable structural and chemical stability in ambient air at room temperature. The encapsulation process can be adapted to the micro-patterning of LM droplet surfaces to produce conductive Au-encapsulated LM droplets then sintered to recover LM lines, while the sub-micrometer Au-LM droplets can be reintegrated onto larger LM surfaces and volumes to create multi-metallic and multi-scale biphasic structures with controllable electrical properties. The adaptability of the encapsulation process to the macro-, micro- and nanoscale of liquid metal features with a wide range of surfactants could in principle allow its use in various systems and applications.