Nanoscale forces and their uses in self-assembly

Small. 2009 Jul;5(14):1600-30. doi: 10.1002/smll.200900358.


The ability to assemble nanoscopic components into larger structures and materials depends crucially on the ability to understand in quantitative detail and subsequently "engineer" the interparticle interactions. This Review provides a critical examination of the various interparticle forces (van der Waals, electrostatic, magnetic, molecular, and entropic) that can be used in nanoscale self-assembly. For each type of interaction, the magnitude and the length scale are discussed, as well as the scaling with particle size and interparticle distance. In all cases, the discussion emphasizes characteristics unique to the nanoscale. These theoretical considerations are accompanied by examples of recent experimental systems, in which specific interaction types were used to drive nanoscopic self-assembly. Overall, this Review aims to provide a comprehensive yet easily accessible resource of nanoscale-specific interparticle forces that can be implemented in models or simulations of self-assembly processes at this scale.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Magnetics
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Static Electricity
  • Surface Properties