Self-assembly of finite-sized colloidal aggregates
One of the challenges of self-assembling finite-sized colloidal aggregates with a sought morphology is the necessity of precisely sorting the position of the colloids at the microscopic scale to avoid the formation of off-target structures. Microfluidic platforms address this problem by loading into single droplets the exact amount of colloids entering the targeted aggregate. Using theory and simulations, in this paper, we validate a more versatile design allowing us to fabricate different types of finite-sized aggregates, including colloidal molecules or core–shell clusters, starting from finite density suspensions of isotropic colloids in bulk. In our model, interactions between particles are mediated by DNA linkers with mobile tethering points, as found in experiments using DNA oligomers tagged with hydrophobic complexes immersed into supported bilayers. By fine-tuning the strength and number of the different types of linkers, we prove the possibility of controlling the morphology of the aggregates, in particular, the valency of the molecules and the size of the core–shell clusters. In general, our design shows how multivalent interactions can lead to microphase separation under equilibrium conditions.