Emergence of Hierarchical Structural Complexities in Nanoparticles and Their Assembly

Science. 2016 Dec 23;354(6319):1580-1584. doi: 10.1126/science.aak9750.


We demonstrate that nanoparticle self-assembly can reach the same level of hierarchy, complexity, and accuracy as biomolecules. The precise assembly structures of gold nanoparticles (246 gold core atoms with 80 p-methylbenzenethiolate surface ligands) at the atomic, molecular, and nanoscale levels were determined from x-ray diffraction studies. We identified the driving forces and rules that guide the multiscale assembly behavior. The protecting ligands self-organize into rotational and parallel patterns on the nanoparticle surface via C-H⋅⋅⋅π interaction, and the symmetry and density of surface patterns dictate directional packing of nanoparticles into crystals with orientational, rotational, and translational orders. Through hierarchical interactions and symmetry matching, the simple building blocks evolve into complex structures, representing an emergent phenomenon in the nanoparticle system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't