Multivalent, multiflavored droplets by design

Yin Zhang, Xiaojin He, Rebecca Zhuo, Ruojie Sha, Jasna Brujic, Nadrian C. Seeman, Paul M. Chaikin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nature self-assembles functional materials by programming flexible linear arrangements of molecules and then folding them to make 2D and 3D objects. To understand and emulate this process, we have made emulsion droplets with specific recognition and controlled valence. Uniquely monovalent droplets form dimers: divalent lead to polymer-like chains, trivalent allow for branching, and programmed mixtures of different valences enable a variety of designed architectures and the ability to subsequently close and open structures. Our functional building blocks are a hybrid of micrometer-scale emulsion droplets and nanoscale DNA origami technologies. Functional DNA origami rafts are first added to droplets and then herded into a patch using specifically designated “shepherding” rafts. Additional patches with the same or different specificities can be formed on the same droplet, programming multiflavored, multivalence droplets. The mobile patch can bind to a patch on another droplet containing complementary functional rafts, leading to primary structure formation. Further binding of nonneighbor droplets can produce secondary structures, a third step in hierarchical self-assembly. The use of mobile patches rather than uniform DNA coverage has the advantage of valence control at the expense of slow kinetics. Droplets with controlled flavors and valences enable a host of different material and device architectures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9086-9091
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 11 2018


  • DNA origami
  • Patchy particle
  • Self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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