Controlled particle placement through convective and capillary assembly

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A wide variety of methods are now available for the synthesis of colloidal particle having controlled shapes, structures, and dimensions. One of the main challenges in the development of devices that utilize micro- and nanoparticles is still particle placement and integration on surfaces. Required are engineering approaches to control the assembly of these building blocks at accurate positions and at high yield. Here, we investigate two complementary methods to create particle assemblies ranging from full layers to sparse arrays of single particles starting from colloidal suspensions of gold and polystyrene particles. Convective assembly was performed on hydrophilic substrates to create crystalline mono- or multilayers using the convective flow of nanoparticles induced by the evaporation of solvent at the three-phase contact line of a solution. On hydrophobic surfaces, capillary assembly was investigated to create sparse arrays and complex three-dimensional structures using capillary forces to trap and organize particles in the recessed regions of a template. In both methods, the hydrodynamic drag exerted on the particle in the suspension plays a key role in the assembly process. We demonstrate for the first time that the velocity and direction of particles in the suspension can be controlled to perform assembly or disassembly of particles. This is achieved by setting the temperature of the colloidal suspension above or below the dew point. The influence of other parameters, such as substrate velocity, wetting properties, and pattern geometry, is also investigated. For the particular case of capillary assembly, we propose a mechanism that takes into account the relative influences of these parameters on the motion of particles and that describes the influence of temperature on the assembly efficiency. © 2007 American Chemical Society.