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Tuning three-dimensional nano-assembly in the mesoscale via bis(imino)pyridine molecular functionalization


We investigate the effect of bis(imino)pyridine (BIP) ligands in guiding self-assembly of semiconducting CdSe/ZnS quantum dots (QDs) into three-dimensional multi-layered shells with diameters spanning the entire mesoscopic range, from 200 nm to 2 μm. The assembly process is directed by guest-host interactions between the BIP ligands and a thermotropic liquid crystal (LC), with the latter's phase transition driving the process. Characterization of the shell structures, through scanning electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering, demonstrates that the average shell diameter depends on the BIP structure, and that changing one functional group in the chemical scaffold allows systematic tuning of shell sizes across the entire range. Differential scanning calorimetry confirms a relationship between shell sizes and the thermodynamic perturbation of the BIP molecules to the LC phase transition temperature, allowing analytical modeling of shell assembly energetics. This novel mechanism to controllably tune shell sizes over the entire mesoscale via one standard protocol is a significant development for research on in situ cargo/drug delivery platforms using nano-assembled structures.

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