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Directing Soft Matter in Water Using Electric Fields

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posted on 06.06.2016, 00:00 by Pim van der Asdonk, Stijn Kragt, Paul H. J. Kouwer
Directing the spatial organization of functional supramolecular and polymeric materials at larger length scales is essential for many biological and molecular optoelectronic applications. Although the application of electrical fields is one of the most powerful approaches to induce spatial control, it is rarely applied experimentally in aqueous solutions, since the low susceptibility of soft and biological materials requires the use of high fields, which leads to parasitic heating and electrochemical degradation. In this work, we demonstrate that we can apply electric fields when we use a mineral liquid crystal as a responsive template. Besides aligning and positioning functional soft matter, we show that the concentration of the liquid crystal template controls the morphology of the assembly. As our setup is very easy to operate and our approach lacks specific molecular interactions, we believe it will be applicable for a wide range of (aqueous) materials.