Surface self-assembly of colloidal crystals for micro- and nano-patterning

Ryan van Dommelen, Paola Fanzio*, Luigi Sasso

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


The controlled patterning of polymeric surfaces at the micro- and nanoscale offers potential in the technological development of small-scale devices, particularly within the fields of photovoltaics, micro-optics and lab- and organ-on-chip, where the topological arrangement of the surface can influence a system's power generation, optical properties or biological function - such as, in the latter case, biomimicking surfaces or topological control of cellular differentiation.One of the most promising approaches in reducing manufacturing costs and complexity is by exploitation of the self-assembling properties of colloidal particles. Self-assembly techniques can be used to produce colloidal crystals onto surfaces, which can act as replicative masks, as has previously been demonstrated with colloidal lithography, or templates in mold-replication methods with resolutions dependent on particle size. Within this context, a particular emerging interest is focused on the use of self-assembled colloidal crystal surfaces in polymer replication methods such as soft lithography, hot and soft embossing and nano-imprint lithography, offering low-cost and high-resolution alternatives to conventional lithographic techniques.However, there are still challenges to overcome for this surface patterning approach to reach a manufacturing reliability and process robustness comparable to competitive technologies already available in the market, as self-assembly processes are not always 100% effective in organizing colloids within a structural pattern onto the surface. Defects often occur during template fabrication. Furthermore, issues often arise mainly at the interface between colloidal crystals and other surfaces and substrates. Particularly when utilized in high-temperature pattern replication processes, poor adhesion of colloidal particles onto the substrate results in degradation of the patterning template. These effects can render difficulties in creating stable structures with little defect that are well controlled such that a large variety of shapes can be reproduced reliably.This review presents an overview of available self-assembly methods for the creation of colloidal crystals, organized by the type of forces governing the self-assembly process: fluidic, physical, external fields, and chemical. The main focus lies on the use of spherical particles, which are favorable due to their high commercial availability and ease of synthesis. However, also shape-anisotropic particle self-assembly will be introduced, since it has recently been gaining research momentum, offering a greater flexibility in terms of patterning. Finally, an overview is provided of recent research on the fabrication of polymer nano- and microstructures by making use of colloidal self-assembled templates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-114
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
Volume251 (January 2018)
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Colloidal particles
  • Nano-patterning
  • Polymer manufacturing
  • Self-assembly


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