Assembly of planar chiral superlattices from achiral building blocks
Cheng, Zhihua; Jones, Matthew R.
The spontaneous assembly of chiral structures from building blocks that lack chirality is fundamentally important for colloidal chemistry and has implications for the formation of advanced optical materials. Here, we find that purified achiral gold tetrahedron-shaped nanoparticles assemble into two-dimensional superlattices that exhibit planar chirality under a balance of repulsive electrostatic and attractive van der Waals and depletion forces. A model accounting for these interactions shows that the growth of planar structures is kinetically preferred over similar three-dimensional products, explaining their selective formation. Exploration and mapping of different packing symmetries demonstrates that the hexagonal chiral phase forms exclusively because of geometric constraints imposed by the presence of constituent tetrahedra with sharp tips. A formation mechanism is proposed in which the chiral phase nucleates from within a related 2D achiral phase by clockwise or counterclockwise rotation of tetrahedra about their central axis. These results lay the scientific foundation for the high-throughput assembly of planar chiral metamaterials.