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Direct Visualization of Planar Assembly of Plasmonic Nanoparticles Adjacent to Electrodes in Oscillatory Electric Fields

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posted on 04.05.2018, 00:00 authored by Adam Ferrick, Mei Wang, Taylor J. Woehl
Electric field-directed assembly of colloidal nanoparticles (NPs) has been widely adopted for fabricating functional thin films and nanostructured surfaces. While first-order electrokinetic effects on NPs are well-understood in terms of classical models, effects of second-order electrokinetics that involve induced surface charge are still poorly understood. Induced charge electroosmotic phenomena, such as electrohydrodynamic (EHD) flow, have long been implicated in electric field-directed NP assembly with little experimental basis. Here, we use in situ dark-field optical microscopy and plasmonic NPs to directly observe the dynamics of planar assembly of colloidal NPs adjacent to a planar electrode in low-frequency (<1 kHz) oscillatory electric fields. We exploit the change in plasmonic NP color resulting from interparticle plasmonic coupling to visualize the assembly dynamics and assembly structure of silver NPs. Planar assembly of NPs is unexpected because of strong electrostatic repulsion between NPs and indicates that there are strong attractive interparticle forces oriented perpendicular to the electric field direction. A parametric investigation of the voltage- and frequency-dependent phase behavior reveals that planar NP assembly occurs over a narrow frequency range below which irreversible ballistic deposition occurs. Two key experimental observations are consistent with EHD flow-induced NP assembly: (1) NPs remain mobile during assembly and (2) electron microscopy observations reveal randomly close-packed planar assemblies, consistent with strong interparticle attraction. We interpret planar assembly in terms of EHD fluid flow and develop a scaling model that qualitatively agrees with the measured phase regions. Our results are the first direct in situ observations of EHD flow-induced NP assembly and shed light on long-standing unresolved questions concerning the formation of NP superlattices during electric field-induced NP deposition.