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UW-Madison

  Abbott Research Group - UW Chemical and Biological Engineering

Laboratory for Molecular Engineering
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Directed Assembly of Microparticles and Nanoparticles at Liquid Crystalline Interfaces


A third type of interface involving liquid crystals that has been the subject of investigation in our research group is defined by microparticles and nanoparticles. Our research has led to model micrometer-sized and nanometer-sized solid particle systems that have well-defined surface chemistry and can be dispersed in liquid crystals. These experimental systems have been used to test theoretical predictions regarding the nature of topological defects that form about particles dispersed in liquid crystals (topological defects play an important role in mediating particle-particle interactions in liquid crystals). They have also revealed the influence of surface chemistry on local ordering of liquid crystals in the vicinity of nanoparticles via changes in localized surface plasmon resonances of the nanoparticles. These results suggest principles for active control of the organization of particles in liquid crystals. Highlights of research in this area include:

  • We report a study of the organization of solid microparticles at oil−water interfaces, where the oil is a thermotropic liquid crystal (LC). The study was motivated by the proposition that microparticle organization and LC ordering would be coupled at these interfaces. more
  • Demonstrated that surface-driven ordering of liquid crystals in the vicinity of chemically functionalized gold nanoparticles leads to changes in the localized surface plasmon resonance of the gold nanoparticles more
  • Assemblies formed by solid particles at interfaces have been widely studied because they serve as models of molecular phenomena, including molecular self-assembly. Solid particles adsorbed at interfaces also provide a means of stabilizing liquid–liquid emulsions and synthesizing materials with tunable mechanical, optical, or electronic properties. Whereas many past studies have investigated colloids at interfaces of isotropic liquids, recently, new types of intercolloidal interactions have been unmasked at interfaces of liquid crystals (LCs): more