Comprehensive view of microscopic interactions between DNA-coated colloids

Fan Cui, Sophie Marbach, Jeana Aojie Zheng, Miranda Holmes-Cerfon, David J. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The self-assembly of DNA-coated colloids into highly-ordered structures offers great promise for advanced optical materials. However, control of disorder, defects, melting, and crystal growth is hindered by the lack of a microscopic understanding of DNA-mediated colloidal interactions. Here we use total internal reflection microscopy to measure in situ the interaction potential between DNA-coated colloids with nanometer resolution and the macroscopic melting behavior. The range and strength of the interaction are measured and linked to key material design parameters, including DNA sequence, polymer length, grafting density, and complementary fraction. We present a first-principles model that screens and combines existing theories into one coherent framework and quantitatively reproduces our experimental data without fitting parameters over a wide range of DNA ligand designs. Our theory identifies a subtle competition between DNA binding and steric repulsion and accurately predicts adhesion and melting at a molecular level. Combining experimental and theoretical results, our work provides a quantitative and predictive approach for guiding material design with DNA-nanotechnology and can be further extended to a diversity of colloidal and biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2304
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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