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Colloidal Molecules

  • Supervisor: Peter Schall
  • Project Type: Bachelor / Master Project
  • Goal: To investigate molecular dynamics using colloidal particles.
  • Info: Send an email to: P.Schall

Colloidal particles offer fascinating insight into the statistical mechanics and assembly behaviour of atoms. The particles, about a micrometer in size, have thermal energy and attractive/repulsive interactions similar to atoms, making them form phases very similar to their atomic counterpart. Yet, as these colloidal particles are larger, they can be easily observed in real space and time. Besides being atomic models, these particles serve as building blocks for the assembly of new micro- and nanoscale materials that are used, e.g. in photonics and optoelectronics.

Recently, we succeeded in assembling analogues of molecules using “patchy” colloidal particles. These particles interact via attractive patches in specific directions only, making them form structures known from molecular compounds. The movie shows a pair of particles with four patches, clearly bonded via one of their patches (bright). Excitingly, such 4-patch particles form structures known from molecular carbon, such as carbon rings C5 and C6, and more complex molecules such as butane and butene.

Using these colloidal molecules, we obtain unique insight into their atomic counterpart by 3D reconstruction of their structure. We analyse their vibration spectrum, conformations and relaxation, and how this depends on the patch attraction, which we can vary continuously. In this project, the student can explore assembling different molecular compounds, and study their formation and relaxation, thus obtaining insight into the molecular dynamics.