Colloids with valence and specific directional bonding

Nature. 2012 Nov 1;491(7422):51-5. doi: 10.1038/nature11564.


The ability to design and assemble three-dimensional structures from colloidal particles is limited by the absence of specific directional bonds. As a result, complex or low-coordination structures, common in atomic and molecular systems, are rare in the colloidal domain. Here we demonstrate a general method for creating the colloidal analogues of atoms with valence: colloidal particles with chemically distinct surface patches that imitate hybridized atomic orbitals, including sp, sp(2), sp(3), sp(3)d, sp(3)d(2) and sp(3)d(3). Functionalized with DNA with single-stranded sticky ends, patches on different particles can form highly directional bonds through programmable, specific and reversible DNA hybridization. These features allow the particles to self-assemble into 'colloidal molecules' with triangular, tetrahedral and other bonding symmetries, and should also give access to a rich variety of new microstructured colloidal materials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amidines / chemistry
  • Biotin / chemistry
  • Colloids / chemical synthesis
  • Colloids / chemistry*
  • DNA / chemical synthesis
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / ultrastructure
  • Kinetics
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microspheres
  • Polystyrenes / chemistry
  • Surface Properties


  • Amidines
  • Colloids
  • Polystyrenes
  • Biotin
  • DNA