Self-assembly of Janus Au:Fe3O4 branched nanoparticles. From organized clusters to stimuli-responsive nanogel suprastructures†
Janus nanoparticles offer enormous possibilities through a binary selective functionalization and dual properties. Their self-assembly has attracted strong interest due to their potential as building blocks to obtain molecular colloids, supracrystals and well-organized nanostructures that can lead to new functionalities. However, this self-assembly has been focused on relatively simple symmetrical morphologies, while for complex nanostructures this process has been unexplored. Here, we study the assembly of plasmonic-magnetic Janus nanoparticles with a branched (nanostar) – sphere morphology. The branched morphology enhances their plasmonic properties in the near-infrared region and therefore their applicability, but at the same time constrains their self-assembly capabilities to obtain more organized or functional suprastructures. We describe the self-assembly of these nanoparticles after amphiphilic functionalization. The role of the nanoparticle branching, as well as the size of the polymer-coating, is explored. We show how the use of large molecular weight stabilizing polymers can overcome the anisotropy of the nanoparticles producing a change in the morphology from small clusters to larger quasi-cylindrical nanostructures. Finally, the Janus nanoparticles are functionalized with a thermo-responsive elastin-like recombinamer. These nanoparticles undergo reversible self-assembly in the presence of free polymer giving rise to nanoparticle-stabilized nanogel-like structures with controlled size, providing the possibility to expand their applicability to multi-stimuli controlled self-assembly.