Spatially confined assembly of nanoparticles.
Conspectus The ability to assemble NPs into ordered structures that are expected to yield collective physical or chemical properties has afforded new and exciting opportunities in the field of nanotechnology. Among the various configurations of nanoparticle assemblies, two-dimensional (2D) NP patterns and one-dimensional (1D) NP arrays on surfaces are regarded as the ideal assembly configurations for many technological devices, for example, solar cells, magnetic memory, switching devices, and sensing devices, due to their unique transport phenomena and the cooperative properties of NPs in assemblies. To realize the potential applications of NP assemblies, especially in nanodevice-related applications, certain key issues must still be resolved, for example, ordering and alignment, manipulating and positioning in nanodevices, and multicomponent or hierarchical structures of NP assemblies for device integration. Additionally, the assembly of NPs with high precision and high levels of integration and uniformity for devices with scaled-down dimensions has become a key and challenging issue. Two-dimensional NP patterns and 1D NP arrays are obtained using traditional lithography techniques (top-down strategies) or interfacial assembly techniques (bottom-up strategies). However, a formidable challenge that persists is the controllable assembly of NPs in desired locations over large areas with high precision and high levels of integration. The difficulty of this assembly is due to the low efficiency of small features over large areas in lithography techniques or the inevitable structural defects that occur during the assembly process. The combination of self-assembly strategies with existing nanofabrication techniques could potentially provide effective and distinctive solutions for fabricating NPs with precise position control and high resolution. Furthermore, the synergistic combination of spatially mediated interactions between nanoparticles and prestructures on surfaces may play an increasingly important role in the controllable assembly of NPs. In this Account, we summarize our approaches and progress in fabricating spatially confined assemblies of NPs that allow for the positioning of NPs with high resolution and considerable throughput. The spatially selective assembly of NPs at the desired location can be achieved by various mechanisms, such as, a controlled dewetting process, electrostatically mediated assembly of particles, and confined deposition and growth of NPs. Three nanofabrication techniques used to produce prepatterns on a substrate are summarized: the Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) patterning technique, e-beam lithography (EBL), and nanoimprint lithography (NPL). The particle density, particle size, or interparticle distance in NP assemblies strongly depends on the geometric parameters of the template structure due to spatial confinement. In addition, with smart design template structures, multiplexed NPs can be assembled into a defined structure, thus demonstrating the structural and functional complexity required for highly integrated and multifunction applications.