Hierarchical self-assembly of polydisperse colloidal bananas into a two-dimensional vortex phase

Carla Fernandez-Rico, and Roel PA Dullens

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 2021 118 2107241118

Self-assembly of microscopic building blocks into highly ordered and functional structures is ubiquitous in nature and found at all length scales. Hierarchical structures formed by colloidal building blocks are typically assembled from monodisperse particles interacting via engineered directional interactions. Here, we show that polydisperse colloidal bananas self-assemble into a complex and hierarchical quasi-two-dimensional structure, called the vortex phase, only due to excluded volume interactions and polydispersity in the particle curvature. Using confocal microscopy, we uncover the remarkable formation mechanism of the vortex phase and characterize its exotic structure and dynamics at the single-particle level. These results demonstrate that hierarchical self-assembly of complex materials can be solely driven by entropy and shape polydispersity of the constituting particles.