Unique orientation of 1D and 2D nanoparticle assemblies confined in smectic topological defects†
New collective optical properties have emerged recently from organized and oriented arrays of closely packed semiconducting and metallic nanoparticles (NPs). However, it is still challenging to obtain NP assemblies which are similar everywhere on a given sample and, most importantly, share a unique common orientation that would guarantee a unique behavior everywhere on the sample. In this context, by combining optical microscopy, fluorescence microscopy and synchrotron-based grazing incidence X-ray scattering (GISAXS) of assemblies of gold nanospheres and of fluorescent nanorods, we study the interactions between NPs and liquid crystal smectic topological defects that can ultimately lead to unique NP orientations. We demonstrate that arrays of one-dimensional – 1D (dislocations) and two-dimensional – 2D (grain boundaries) topological defects oriented along one single direction confine and organize NPs in closely packed networks but also orient both single nanorods and NP networks along the same direction. Through the comparison between smectic films associated with different kinds of topological defects, we highlight that the coupling between the NP ligands and the smectic layers below the grain boundaries may be necessary to allow for fixed NP orientation. This is in contrast with 1D defects, where the induced orientation of the NPs is intrinsically induced by the confinement independently of the ligand nature. We thus succeeded in achieving the fixed polarization of assemblies of single photon emitters in defects. For gold nanospheres confined in grain boundaries, a strict orientation of hexagonal networks has been obtained with the 〈10〉 direction strictly parallel to the defects. With such closely packed and oriented NPs, new collective properties are now foreseen.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Soft Matter Editorial Board Highlights of 2022