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Multicomponent Colloidal Assembly by Comprehensive Interaction Design

The goal of IRG1 is to develop a fundamental understanding of self-assembly of bulk materials from multi-component colloidal suspensions by using directed and programmed interactions. The team will focus on systems in which driving potentials can be controlled with the objective of elucidating the fundamental rules that govern programmed colloidal assembly for materials fabrication by design. Theory and simulation will play a key role in these efforts, not only in interpreting experimental results, but also in predicting a priori new colloidal assemblies that may be realized experimentally. 

The research thrust will be directed toward multi-component systems of the following three general particle and interaction types:

  • multi-polar particles of various sizes, types, and degrees ofmagnetization/polarization, which interact via long-range forces;
  • multi-faceted particles with anisotropicsurface properties that induce short-range directional bonding interactions; and
  • multi-shaped particles that interact through steric constraints.

Finally, this team will aim not only to assemble new, well-ordered colloidal structures, but also to incorporate them permanently into materials that possess unusual and useful physico-chemical properties. An additional important element that is needed for exploring the dynamics and structure evolution during nanolevel and mesolevel assembly is access to powerful characterization methods such as neutron scattering, which will be performed in a collaborative network involving NIST, ORNL, other US institutions, and investigators from Europe and Asia. The fundamental science developed in the IRG will find immediate application in materials innovation and cross-IRG materialsresearch. Ultimately, this work will have ramifications for the production of hybrid photonic and phononic crystals, anisotropic conducting films, self-healing materials, “smart” gels, metamaterials, and other advanced engineering materials.


The interdisciplinary IRG1 team includes internationally recognized experts in the diverse areas of magnetic and electric field controlled colloidal assembly, simulation of molecular and particle ensembles, and synthetic/functionalization approaches for building and interlinking micro- and nanoparticle building blocks. The synergistic integration of theory and experiment embedded here is designed to promote critical progress in this interdisciplinary field beyond what any single investigator can achieve.

Colloidal Assembly

Orlin Velev, North Carolina State University. Specializes in directed and programmed e-field assembly, Janus and patchy particles.

Benjamin Yellen, Duke University. Specializes in programmable magnetic field assembly, and ferrofluids particle manipulation.

Richard Superfine, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Specializes in magnetic field micromanipulation, multiscale mechanics, and materials characterization.

Theory and Computation

Carol Hall, North Carolina State University. Specializes in molecular dynamics simulations--particle and molecule assembly and phases.

Joshua Socolar, Duke University. Specializes in quasiperiodic lattices critical dynamics in self-organizing systems.

Patrick Charbonneau, Duke University. Specializes in polymer, protein and particle soft matter, phase transitions, and dimensionality.


Gabriel Lopez, Duke University. Specializes in bionanomaterials, silica nanocontainers, microporous and functional films.

Joseph Tracy, North Carolina State University. Specializes in magnetic/anisotropic nanoparticle synthesis and assembly.

Benjamin Wiley, Duke University. Specializes in rod-like particles, open structures, nanoparticle films and nanomaterials.

Research Fields: