A self-assembled nanoparticle cluster array fabricated using nematic–isotropic phase separation on a functionalized surface
The manipulation of a large number of nanoparticles (NPs) is an interesting but challenging task. Here, we demonstrate a new method to fabricate an NP cluster array, in which the shape and size of each NP cluster can be controlled. The method involves the use of the solubility contrast of NPs in the isotropic and nematic liquid crystal (LC) media, and the isotropic-preference difference depending on the types of the surfaces. The former mechanism is used to trap NPs within the isotropic domain, the size of which is simply manipulated by adjusting temperature. The latter mechanism is used to control the location of isotropic pockets in the continuous nematic phase. By controlling the volume and location of the isotropic pocket, one can simply create various types of NP cluster arrays. This method does not involve the use of any external field, and may be applicable to other types of NPs, including ferroelectric or ferromagnetic materials, thereby expanding its applicability.