“Harnessing interfacial phenomena at soft interfaces to engineer soft materials”
Fluid interfaces are unique landscapes that offer flexibility in methods for materials synthesis and assembly. Leveraging the dynamics and reconfigurability of these soft interfaces requires fundamental understanding of (i) the transport of materials (hard and soft) to fluid interfaces, (ii) the assembly at soft interfaces, and (iii) the mechanisms available to direct assembly processes. Fundamental insights into these topics will inform new methods of bottom-up processing that merge interfacial synthesis and assembly in order to design materials with targeted structures and functions. To highlight to the roles interfaces play in materials processing, this seminar will describe the formation and evolution of interfaces during heterogeneous polymerization for the production of anisotropic colloids and large-area two-dimensional colloidal crystals. First, I will show that the morphologies of multiphasic colloids derived from polymerization-induced phase separation are kinetically-arrested and exhibit dynamic transitions during synthesis. Results of this work raise questions about the internal morphology of chemically-anisotropic colloids, which has been largely overlooked, but offers opportunities to enhance colloid utility. Second, I will demonstrate the formation of two-dimensional colloidal crystals by simultaneous growth and assembly at nematic-isotropic fluid interfaces. Interfaces of liquid crystalline phases present opportunities to template materials processing. We propose that coupling templated assembly with dynamic materials transport during interfacial synthesis will open new avenues for bottom-up processing of hierarchical composites.