Self-assembly of spherical colloids into helical chains with well-controlled handedness

J Am Chem Soc. 2003 Feb 26;125(8):2048-9. doi: 10.1021/ja029408h.


Physical constraint and capillary force have been combined to provide a generic approach to assemble achiral building blocks such as monodisperse spherical colloids into helical mesostructures. The key component of this process is an array of V-shaped grooves anisotropically etched in the surface of a Si(100) wafer. The structural arrangement among the spherical colloids is determined by the ratio between the width of the V-grooves and the diameter of the colloids. Double-layered structures with a helical morphology will be formed when this ratio falls between 2.70 and 2.85. The exact handedness of these helical structures could be controlled by varying the relative orientation of capillary force with respect to the longitudinal axis of the spirals. The processing of an achiral material into helical mesostructures having well-controlled handedness should allow us to explore new properties that this material otherwise does not exhibit. The self-assembly process may also provide valuable insights to improve our understanding on the mechanism(s) by which pure enantiomers with a particular sense of rotation evolved in nature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colloids / chemistry*
  • Molecular Conformation*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Colloids