Shape-shifting colloids via stimulated dewetting

Mena Youssef, Theodore Hueckel, Gi Ra Yi, Stefano Sacanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to reconfigure elementary building blocks from one structure to another is key to many biological systems. Bringing the intrinsic adaptability of biological systems to traditional synthetic materials is currently one of the biggest scientific challenges in material engineering. Here we introduce a new design concept for the experimental realization of self-assembling systems with built-in shape-shifting elements. We demonstrate that dewetting forces between an oil phase and solid colloidal substrates can be exploited to engineer shape-shifting particles whose geometry can be changed on demand by a chemical or optical signal. We find this approach to be quite general and applicable to a broad spectrum of materials, including polymers, semiconductors and magnetic materials. This synthetic methodology can be further adopted as a new experimental platform for designing and rapidly prototyping functional colloids, such as reconfigurable micro swimmers, colloidal surfactants and switchable building blocks for self-assembly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12216
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Jul 18 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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