Hierarchical self-assembly of metal nanostructures on diblock copolymer scaffolds

Nature. 2001 Dec 13;414(6865):735-8. doi: 10.1038/414735a.


Self-assembly is emerging as an elegant, 'bottom-up' method for fabricating nanostructured materials. This approach becomes particularly powerful when the ease and control offered by the self-assembly of organic components is combined with the electronic, magnetic or photonic properties of inorganic components. Here we demonstrate a versatile hierarchical approach for the assembly of organic-inorganic, copolymer-metal nanostructures in which one level of self-assembly guides the next. In a first step, ultrathin diblock copolymer films form a regular scaffold of highly anisotropic, stripe-like domains. During a second assembly step, differential wetting guides diffusing metal atoms to aggregate selectively along the scaffold, producing highly organized metal nanostructures. We find that, in contrast to the usual requirement of near-equilibrium conditions for ordering, the metal arranged on the copolymer scaffold produces the most highly ordered configurations when the system is far from equilibrium. We delineate two distinct assembly modes of the metal component-chains of separate nanoparticles and continuous wires-each characterized by different ordering kinetics and strikingly different current-voltage characteristics. These results therefore demonstrate the possibility of guided, large-scale assembly of laterally nanostructured systems.