A plant or an animal cell uses numerous processes to sort and assemble tiny building blocks into larger molecules, to rebuild molecules or to dissolve them. Using synthetic gel particles, scientists try to simulate these cellular procedures; however, mimicking the complexity of natural processes presents a formidable task for scientists.
Researchers from the DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen and the University of Freiburg now developed a set of four different, micrometer-sized building blocks, which can self-sort and co-assemble into defined compositions and disassemble at the push of a button.
A set of blue, red, green and yellow Lego bricks helps to visualize this research approach. It is very simple to build a multicolored object from these bricks, without considering the colors of the single bricks. To make it slightly more complicated, one could initially sort the bricks by their color and then build objects that are either blue, red, green or yellow.
Such processes are referred to as ‘unsocial assemblies’ if they are driven by themselves. To make things even more complex, you could also build some objects from red and blue bricks and others from green and yellow bricks. These processes, if running simultaneously, are termed ‘social assemblies’.
The scientists from Aachen and Freiburg solved a similar task; however on a microscopic scale by using small gel particles instead of Lego bricks. These so-called microgels are water-rich, sponge-like gel particles, which can be chemically modified.
“We used four different types of microgels for our experiments. The microgels can self-assemble in an ‘unsocial’ manner, staying amongst themselves, or co-assemble in a ‘social’ manner, with a second type of microgel,” explains Dr. Alexander Kühne from DWI. He coordinated this project together with Prof. Dr. Andreas Walther, a former DWI scientist who recently moved to the University of Freiburg.
The challenge of this project was to enable the microgels to distinguish between right and wrong partners. To achieve this, the scientists integrated molecular interactions so that only specific types of microgels would interact with each other – just like a key, which can only open a very specific lock.
However, instead of keys and locks, the researchers applied switchable molecules that integrate into cyclic sugar moieties. Triggered by certain chemical conditions or by light the researchers could control the molecular shape and their interactions during the experiment. This way, the microgels can self-sort, self-assemble and disassemble at the push of a button.
“We use these types of experiments to get a better understanding of processes running in natural cells,” says Alexander Kühne. “In addition, progress in this field of research will eventually help us to develop biologically inspired, interactive materials.”
Publication: Kang Han, Dennis Go, Thomas Tigges, Khosrow Rahimi, Alexander J. C. Kuehne, Andreas Walther, “Social Self-Sorting of Colloidal Families in Co-Assembling Microgel Systems”, Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2017, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201612196.
Dr. Janine Hillmer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Molecular milk mayonnaise: How mouthfeel and microscopic properties are related in mayonnaise
11.12.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung
Predicting a protein's behavior from its appearance
11.12.2019 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
In a joint experimental and theoretical work performed at the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, an international team of physicists detected for the first time an orbital crossing in the highly charged ion Pr⁹⁺. Optical spectra were recorded employing an electron beam ion trap and analysed with the aid of atomic structure calculations. A proposed nHz-wide transition has been identified and its energy was determined with high precision. Theory predicts a very high sensitivity to new physics and extremely low susceptibility to external perturbations for this “clock line” making it a unique candidate for proposed precision studies.
Laser spectroscopy of neutral atoms and singly charged ions has reached astonishing precision by merit of a chain of technological advances during the past...
The ability to investigate the dynamics of single particle at the nano-scale and femtosecond level remained an unfathomed dream for years. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that nanotechnology and femtoscience gradually merged together and the first ultrafast microscopy of individual quantum dots (QDs) and molecules was accomplished.
Ultrafast microscopy studies entirely rely on detecting nanoparticles or single molecules with luminescence techniques, which require efficient emitters to...
Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...
Using a clever technique that causes unruly crystals of iron selenide to snap into alignment, Rice University physicists have drawn a detailed map that reveals...
University of Texas and MIT researchers create virtual UAVs that can predict vehicle health, enable autonomous decision-making
In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location...
03.12.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
11.12.2019 | Materials Sciences
11.12.2019 | Information Technology
11.12.2019 | Life Sciences