Biomimetic Self-Assembly of Helical Electrical Circuits Using Orthogonal Capillary Interactions

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Biomimetic self-assembly of helical electrical circuits using orthogonal capillary interactions

David H. Garcia, Mila Boncheve, Osahon Omoregie, and George M. Whitesides

Applied Physics Letters. Volume 80, Number 15 (15 April 2002)

Keywords: capillary, biomimetic, self-assembly


The authors are inspired by the self-assembly of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus to create a new method for making mesoscale electric circuits. The virus consists of a single strand of RNA surround by a helical protein coat. To produce more complex structures than previously created in the lab, the researchers used a two-step process: (1) nucleation of disk-shaped assemblies of wedges and (2) elongation of these nuclei into helices. The specific system that the authors used was a collection of wedge-shaped pieces of polyhedra coated with patches of solder and hydrophobic regions. These pieces assembled themselves while being tumbled in a rotary evaporator than contained a hydrophobic lubricant.


Soft matter aspects

Two types of capillary interactions allow the assembly of the helices: (1) between patterns of solder are imprinted narrow, chiral edges of each wedge and (2) between hydrophobic surfaces on the large, flat top and bottom surfaces. Capillary forces caused the chiral edges of the wedges to bind together, forming disks of at least six wedges. However, the capillary forces caused by the hydrophobic surfaces was needed to extend the helix past about 14 wedges. To show the versatility of this technique and suggest a possible application, the researchers created a helix with two separate electrical wires along the edge of the helix, using the pattern of copper and solder shown in (a)-(c). Photographs of the resulting helices are shown in (d) and (e). They verified the electrical continuity over a full-scale helix to demonstrate the versatility of the technique (see (f) and (g) for a schematic).


written by: Naveen Sinha