Nature communications

Guided and magnetic self-assembly of tunable magnetoceptive gels.

PMID 25175148


Self-assembly of components into complex functional patterns at microscale is common in nature, and used increasingly in numerous disciplines such as optoelectronics, microfabrication, sensors, tissue engineering and computation. Here, we describe the use of stable radicals to guide the self-assembly of magnetically tunable gels, which we call 'magnetoceptive' materials at the scale of hundreds of microns to a millimeter, each can be programmed by shape and composition, into heterogeneous complex structures. Using paramagnetism of free radicals as a driving mechanism, complex heterogeneous structures are built in the magnetic field generated by permanent magnets. The overall magnetic signature of final structure is erased via an antioxidant vitamin E, subsequent to guided self-assembly. We demonstrate unique capabilities of radicals and antioxidants in fabrication of soft systems with heterogeneity in material properties, such as porosity, elastic modulus and mass density; then in bottom-up tissue engineering and finally, levitational and selective assembly of microcomponents.