Self-AssemblySelf-assembly is the process by which small particles (components) spontaneously aggregate into larger structures. This is a ubiquitous phenomenon in nature, and is observed across all length scales. Aggregation of Cheerios on the milk surface, packing of lipids into biological membranes , and aggregation of proteins into viral shells (capsids) are just a few examples of such fundamental processes.
Gaining an understanding of the physical mechanisms driving self-assembly of biological or artificial components will shed light on critical biological processes and simultaneously holds promise for the development of materials with novel functional, mechanical, and optical properties.
The problem is that for self-assembly to take place, a very delicate balance between entropic and energetic contributions, coupled to a specific set of geometric features of the components, must be satisfied. Self-assembly is not to be expected unless a careful design of the building blocks has been performed beforehand.
This App enables the user to design his/her own components and watch them aggregate into complex two-dimensional structures. The idea is to understand how the shape and the interactions between any two particles affect the overall symmetry of the final aggregate, and find the temperature and concentration that generate the best structures.
The goal is to provide a simple, fun and direct tool for nonscientist to experience first hand the beautiful world of physical chemistry. The user can post his/her structures online in a flickr account explicitly setup for this project, by emailing a snapshot of his/her results to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is part of the outreach program of the Cacciuto group and has been funded by the National Science Foundation under Career Grant DMR-0846426.