Chem Sci. 2022 Sep 20;13(40):11792-11797. doi: 10.1039/d2sc02843c. eCollection 2022 Oct 19.
Colloidal superstructures comprising hetero-building blocks often show unanticipated physical and chemical properties. Here, we present a universal assembly methodology to prepare hetero-superstructures. This straightforward methodology allows the assembly of building block materials varying from inorganic nanoparticles to living cells to form superstructures. No molecular linker is required to bind the building blocks together and thus the products do not contain any unwanted adscititious material. The Fourier transform infrared spectra, high resolution transmission electron microscopic images and nanoparticle adhesion force measurement results reveal that the key to self-organization is stripping surface ligands by adding non-polar solvents or neutralizing surface charge by adding salts, which allow us to tune the balance between van der Waals attraction and electrostatic repulsion in the colloid so as to trigger the assembling process. As a proof-of-concept, the superior photocatalytic activity and single-particle surface-enhanced Raman scattering of the corresponding superstructures are demonstrated. Our methodology greatly extends the scope of building blocks for superstructure assembly and enables scalable construction of colloidal multifunctional materials.