Crystallization of micrometer-sized particles with molecular contours

Pengcheng Song, Brian K. Olmsted, Paul Chaikin, Michael D. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The crystallization of micrometer-sized particles with shapes mimicking those of tetrabenzoheptacene (TBH) and 1,2:5,6-dibenzanthracene (DBT), both flat polyacenes, in an electric field results in the formation of ordered 2D packings that mimic the plane group symmetries in their respective molecular crystal equivalents. Whereas the particles packed in low-density disordered arrangements under a gravitational gradient, dielectrophoresis (under an ac electric field) produced ordered high-density packings with readily identifiable plane group symmetry. The ordered colloidal assemblies were stable for hours, with the packing density decreasing slowly but with recognizable symmetry for up to 12 h for the TBH-shaped particles and up to 4 h for the DBT-shaped particles. This unexpected stability is attributed to jamming behavior associated with interlocking of the dogbone-shaped (TBH) and Z-block (DBT) particles, contrasting with the more rapid reduction of packing density and loss of hexagonal symmetry for disk-shaped particles upon removal of the electric field. The TBH-shaped and DBT-shaped particles assemble into the p2 plane group, which corresponds to the densest particle packing among the possible close-packed plane groups for these particle symmetries. The p2 symmetry observed for the TBH-shaped and DBT-shaped colloid crystal emulates the p2 symmetry of the (010) layers in their respective molecular crystals, which crystallize in monoclinic lattices. Notably, DBT-shaped particles also form ordered domains with pgg symmetry, replicating the plane group symmetry of the (100) layer in the orthorhombic polymorph of DBT. These observations illustrate that the 2D ordering of colloid particles can mimic the packing of molecules with similar shapes, demonstrating that packing can transcend length scales from the molecular to the colloidal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13686-13693
Number of pages8
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 12 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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