Magnetic field assisted programming of particle shapes and patterns.

Soft matter (2015-08-11)
Wenwen Xu, Yuyu Yao, John S Klassen, Michael J Serpe

Anisotropic particles have generated an enormous amount of research interest due to their applications for drug delivery, electronic displays and as micromotors. However, up till now, there is no single protocol capable of generating particles of "patchy" composition with a variety of well-defined and predictable shapes. To address this, in this submission we dispersed magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) in a non-magnetic fluid containing monomer and crosslinker. This solution was added to the surface of Teflon, which was submerged in the solvent 2,2,4-trimethylpentane. Under these conditions a round, stable droplet was formed on the Teflon. Upon exposure to a permanent magnet, the MNPs self-assembled into clusters with a variety shapes and sizes. The shape and size of the clusters depended on the magnetic field strength, which we controlled by systematically varying the distance between the magnet and the droplet. Interestingly, the shape of the liquid droplet was also influenced by the magnetic field. Upon polymerization, the MNP patterns and the droplet shape was preserved. We also show that very complex MNP patterns and particle shapes could be generated by controlling the distance between the drop and both a magnet above and below the droplet. In this case, the resulting patterns depended on whether the magnets were attracting or repelling each other, which was capable of changing the field lines that the MNPs align with. Overall, this approach is capable of generating particles with predictable MNP patterns and particle shapes without the use of any templates or complex synthetic steps. Furthermore, by using a sprayer (or similar approaches, e.g., ink jet printing) this technique can be easily scaled up to produce many complex anisotropic particles in a short amount of time.