New fundamental principles in self-assemblySelf-assembly is a relatively young field focusing on the “bottom-up” approach to obtain new materials by designing building blocks and let them find each-other to assemble into ordered structures. In addition to its values in engineering, these studies also help us to answer fundamental questions in physics, biology and other fields. For example, a major mystery in biology is how nature assembles so many extremely complicated structures with highly-developed functions, with high levels of robustness and precision. In the past two decades, enormous progress has been made in the field of self-assembly due to both the rapid advances in nano-technology and the power of numerical simulations. However, compared to the rich varieties of structures evolved from nature, manmade self-assembling structures are still very limited, due to our limited understanding about the fundamental principles governing the rich phenomena of self-assembly in vastly diverse systems. I will use both analytic theory and numerical simulation to search for these new fundamental principles. Analytic theory has the advantage of extracting fundamental principles in complicated experimental systems more directly and more efficiently than the usual trial-and-error approach, whereas numerical simulations will compliment my analytic approach and allow investigations closer to real materials. With these new fundamental principles more complicated structures will become possible.
- Xiaoming Mao, Qian Chen, and Steve Granick, Submitted to Nature Materials (2012).