Inverse design of triblock Janus spheres for self-assembly of complex structures in the crystallization slot via digital alchemy†
The digital alchemy framework is an extended ensemble simulation technique that incorporates particle attributes as thermodynamic variables, enabling the inverse design of colloidal particles for desired behavior. Here, we extend the digital alchemy framework for the inverse design of patchy spheres that self-assemble into target crystal structures. To constrain the potentials to non-trivial solutions, we conduct digital alchemy simulations with constant second virial coefficient. We optimize the size, range, and strength of patchy interactions in model triblock Janus spheres to self-assemble the 2D kagome and snub square lattices and the 3D pyrochlore lattice, and demonstrate self-assembly of all three target structures with the designed models. The particles designed for the kagome and snub square lattices assemble into high quality clusters of their target structures, while competition from similar polymorphs lower the yield of the pyrochlore assemblies. We find that the alchemically designed potentials do not always match physical intuition, illustrating the ability of the method to find nontrivial solutions to the optimization problem. We identify a window of second virial coefficients that result in self-assembly of the target structures, analogous to the crystallization slot in protein crystallization.