Nanoarchitectures: Smart Assembly, Quantum Electronics and Soft Mechanics


Nanoparticles and colloidal particles have the potential to act as building blocks in hierarchical structures of tomorrow?s materials. Much is known about how atoms form molecules and how molecules form supramolecular structures; however, a great challenge lies in the assembly of objects on the nanometer scale, and in understanding the properties of the resulting structures. An exciting manifold of nanoparticles has recently become available. I have pioneered an assembly technique that allows unprecedented active assembly control. Here, I propose to combine these innovations to assemble nanoarchitectures with novel complexity, similarly complex as molecules built from atoms. By elucidating the physical properties of these structures, I will open horizons for materials with exceptional mechanical and opto-electronic functionality. The program consists of 3 subprojects:

1. Colloidal superstructures ? We will assemble patterned particles into complex superstructures, and elucidate their formation and stability by direct real-space imaging of the assembly, particle interactions and charge distributions.

2. Smart nanomechanics ? By combining these superstructures with self-propelling ?motor? particles, we will investigate the elasticity, relaxation and active response of nanoarchitectures. The underlying non-equilibrium physics will be applied to biopolymer networks in biological tissues.

3. Assembled quantum dots ? We will assemble quantum dots into new ?super solids? and investigate their opto-electronic properties for photovoltaic applications.

Leading a team of 3 PhD?s and 2 postdocs and building on my expertise in both soft and hard condensed matter (Fig. 1), I will obtain crucial insight into fundamental questions at the forefront of soft, hard and biological matter, opening avenues for synergy among these disciplines. I envisage applications in the design of new nanostructured materials with novel mechanical and opto-electronic properties for artificial tissue and high-efficiency solar cells.


Scientific article

  • V Chikkadi(2014): Shear Banding of Colloidal Glasses: Observation of a Dynamic First-Order Transition Phys. Rev. Lett. pp. 20830 - 20830
  • J T Uhl(2015): Universal Quake Statistics: From Compressed Nanocrystals to Earthquakes Scientific Reports pp. 16493 - 16493
  • D V Denisov(2015): Sharp symmetry-change marks the mechanical failure Transition of glasses Scientific Reports pp. 14359 - 14359
  • E Marino(2016): Assembling quantum dots via critical Casimir forces Solar energy materials & solar cells pp. 154 - 159
  • N Y C Lin(2016): Measuring nonlinear stresses generated by defects in 3D colloidal crystals Nature Materials pp. 1172 - 1176
  • V D Nguyen(2016): Critical Casimir forces for colloidal assembly J. Phys.: Condens. Matter pp. 04300 - 04300
  • A Sciortino(2016): Solvatochromism Unravels the Emission Mechanism of Carbon Nanodots J. Phys. Chem. Lett. pp. 3419 - 3423
  • B Bruhn(2016): Spectroscopy of carrier multiplication in nanocrystals Scientific Reports pp. 20538 - 20538
  • T A Nguyen(2017): Switching Colloidal Superstructures by Critical Casimir Forces Advanced Materials pp. 17008 - 17008
  • B van Dam(2017): Excitation-Dependent Photoluminescence from Single-Carbon Dots Small pp. 17020 - 17020
  • E Marino(2017): Repairing Nanoparticle Surface Defects Angew. Chemie. Int. Ed. pp. 13795 - 13799
  • S G Stuij(2017): Critical Casimir interactions between colloids around the critical point of binary solvents Soft Matter pp. 5233 - 5249
  • A Ghosh(2017): Direct Observation of Percolation in the Yielding Transition of Colloidal Glasses Phys. Rev. Lett. pp. 14800 - 14800
  • B Bruhn(2017): Multi-chromatic silicon nanocrystals Light: Science & Applications pp. 17007 - 7007


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. P. Schall

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Bureau der Faculteit

Team members

Dr. B. Bruhn, Dr. T.E. Kodger, S. Loenen, K.A. Lorincz, E. Marino MSc, Prof. dr. P. Schall, S.G. Stuij, P.J.M Swinkels


01/06/2014 to 31/05/2019