Photocurable oil/water interfaces as a universal platform for 2-D self-assembly
We present a novel platform, dubbed fossilized liquid assembly, for the creation of 2-D assemblies from nanoscale building blocks. The system consists of an oil/water interface in which the oil phase can be flash-cured upon UV exposure. The photopolymerizable material, 1,12-dodecanediol dimethacrylate, solidifies in as little as 1 s when exposed to UV light. The rapid cross-linking allows one to obtain a "snapshot" of the assembly process for particles that segregate to the oil/water interface. Among the particles investigated were nonpolar 0.39 microm poly(methyl methacrylate) latex spheres, nonpolar 10 microm polystyrene latex spheres, highly polarizable 5 nm Au nanocrystals, dipolar 10 nm CdTe quantum dots, and magnetic 25 nm magnetite nanoparticles. The aggregates formed by this process were typically either globular or fractal in appearance. By comparing with simulation, we can perform quantitative image analysis on the resulting micrographs to define a rigorous set of standards for distinguishing among the main classes of aggregation: flocculation, equilibrium phase separation, and true self-assembly.