Supraparticles: Functionality from Uniform Structural Motifs

ACS Nano. 2018 Jun 26;12(6):5093-5120. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.8b00873. Epub 2018 May 24.


Under the right process conditions, nanoparticles can cluster together to form defined, dispersed structures, which can be termed supraparticles. Controlling the size, shape, and morphology of such entities is a central step in various fields of science and technology, ranging from colloid chemistry and soft matter physics to powder technology and pharmaceutical and food sciences. These diverse scientific communities have been investigating formation processes and structure/property relations of such supraparticles under completely different boundary conditions. On the fundamental side, the field is driven by the desire to gain maximum control of the assembly structures using very defined and tailored colloidal building blocks, whereas more applied disciplines focus on optimizing the functional properties from rather ill-defined starting materials. With this review article, we aim to provide a connecting perspective by outlining fundamental principles that govern the formation and functionality of supraparticles. We discuss the formation of supraparticles as a result of colloidal properties interplaying with external process parameters. We then outline how the structure of the supraparticles gives rise to diverse functional properties. They can be a result of the structure itself (emergent properties), of the colocalization of different, functional building blocks, or of coupling between individual particles in close proximity. Taken together, we aim to establish structure-property and process-structure relationships that provide unifying guidelines for the rational design of functional supraparticles with optimized properties. Finally, we aspire to connect the different disciplines by providing a categorized overview of the existing, diverging nomenclature of seemingly similar supraparticle structures.

Keywords: agglomeration; building blocks; colloids; complex particles; functionality; hierarchy; nanostructures; self-assembly; supraparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't