Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Chemical Engineering

First Adviser

Mittal, Jeetain

Other advisers/committee members

Jagota, Anand; Ou-Yang, H. Daniel; Cheng, Xuanhong


The bottom-up assembly of material architectures with tunable complexity, function, composition, and structure is a long sought goal in rational materials design. One promising approach aims to harnesses the programmability and specificity of DNA hybridization in order to direct the assembly of oligonucleotide-functionalized nano- and micro-particles by tailoring, in part, interparticle interactions. DNA-programmable assembly into three-dimensionally ordered structures has attracted extensive research interest owing to emergent applications in photonics, plasmonics and catalysis and potentially many other areas. Progress on the rational design of DNA-mediated interactions to create useful two-dimensional structures (e.g., structured films), on the other hand, has been rather slow. In this thesis, we establish strategies to engineer a diversity of 2D crystalline arrangements by designing and exploiting DNA-programmable interparticle interactions. We employ a combination of simulation, theory and experiments to predict and confirm accessibility of 2D structural diversity in an effort to establish a rational approach to 2D DNA-mediated particle assembly.We start with the experimental realization of 2D DNA-mediated assembly by decorating micron-sized silica particles with covalently attached single-stranded DNA through a two-step reaction. Subsequently, we elucidate sensitivity and ultimate controllability of DNA-mediated assembly—specifically the melting transition from dispersed singlet particles to aggregated or assembled structures—through control of the concentration of commonly employed nonionic surfactants. We relate the observed tunability to an apparent coupling with the critical micelle temperature in these systems. Also, both square and hexagonal 2D ordered particle arrangements are shown to evolve from disordered aggregates under appropriate annealing conditions defined based upon pre-established melting profiles. Subsequently, the controlled mixing of complementary ssDNA functionality on individual particles (‘multi-flavoring’) as opposed to functionalization of particles with the same type of ssDNA (‘uni-flavoring’) is explored as a possible design handle for tuning interparticle interactions and, thereby, accessing diverse structures. We employ a combination of simulations, theory, and experimental validation toward establishing ‘multi-flavoring’ as a rational design strategy. Firstly, MD simulations are carried out using effective pair potentials to describe interparticle interactions that are representative of different degrees of ssDNA ‘multi-flavoring’. These simulations reveal the template-free assembly of a diversity of 2D crystal polymorphs that is apparently tunable by controlling the relative attractive strengths between like and unlike functionalized particles. The resulting phase diagrams predict conditions (i.e., strengths of relative interparticle interactions) for obtaining crystalline phases with lattice symmetries ranging among square, alternating string hexagonal, random hexagonal, rhombic, honeycomb, and even kagome.Finally, these model findings are translated to experiments, in which binary microparticles are decorated with a tailored mixture of two different complementary ssDNA strands as a straight-forward means to realize tunable particle interactions. Guided by simple statistical mechanics and the detailed MD simulations, ‘multi-flavoring’ and control of solution phase particle stoichiometry resulted in experimental realization of structurally diverse 2D microparticle assemblies consistent with predictions, such as square, pentagonal and hexagonal lattices (honeycomb, kagome). The combined simulation, theory, and experimental findings reveal how control of interparticle interactions via DNA-functionalized particle “multi-flavoring” can lead to an even wider range of accessible colloidal crystal structures. The 2D experiments coupled with the model predictions may be used to provide new fundamental insight into nano- or microparticle assembly in three dimensions.