Revealing pseudorotation and ring-opening reactions in colloidal organic molecules

P. J.M. Swinkels, S. G. Stuij, Z. Gong, H. Jonas, N. Ruffino, B. van der Linden, P. G. Bolhuis, S. Sacanna, S. Woutersen, P. Schall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colloids have a rich history of being used as ‘big atoms’ mimicking real atoms to study crystallization, gelation and the glass transition of condensed matter. Emulating the dynamics of molecules, however, has remained elusive. Recent advances in colloid chemistry allow patchy particles to be synthesized with accurate control over shape, functionality and coordination number. Here, we show that colloidal alkanes, specifically colloidal cyclopentane, assembled from tetrameric patchy particles by critical Casimir forces undergo the same chemical transformations as their atomic counterparts, allowing their dynamics to be studied in real time. We directly observe transitions between chair and twist conformations in colloidal cyclopentane, and we elucidate the interplay of bond bending strain and entropy in the molecular transition states and ring-opening reactions. These results open the door to investigate complex molecular kinetics and molecular reactions in the high-temperature classical limit, in which the colloidal analogue becomes a good model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2810
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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