Controlled Evaporative Self-Assembly of Confined Microfluids: A Route to Complex Ordered Structures
The evaporative self-assembly of nonvolatile solutes such as polymers, nanocrystals, and carbon nanotubes has been widely recognized as a non-lithographic means of producing a diverse range of intriguing complex structures. Due to the spatial variation of evaporative flux and possible convection, however, these non equilibrium dissipative structures (e.g., fingering patterns and polygonal network structures) are often irregularly and stochastically organized. Yet for many applications in microelectronics, data storage devices, and biotechnology, it is highly desirable to achieve surface patterns having a well-controlled spatial arrangement. To date, only a few elegant studies have centered on precise control over the evaporation process to produce ordered structures. In a remarked comparison with
conventional lithography techniques, surface patterning by controlled solvent evaporation is simple and cost-effective, offering a lithography- and external field-free means to organize nonvolatile materials into ordered microscopic structures over large surface areas. The ability to engineer an evaporative self-assembly process that yields a wide range of complex, self-organizing structures over large areas offers tremendous potential for applications in electronics, optoelectronics, and bio- or chemical sensors. We developed a facile, robust tool for evaporating polymer, nanoparticle, or DNA solutions in curve-on-flat geometries to create versatile, highly regular microstructures, including hierarchically
structured polymer blend rings, conjugated polymer "snake-skins", block copolymer stripes, and punch-hole-like meshes, biomolecular microring arrays, etc. The mechanism of structure formation was elucidated both experimentally and theoretically. Our method further enhances current fabrication approaches to creating highly ordered structures in a simple and cost-effective manner, envisioning the potential to be tailored for use in photonics,
optoelectronics, microfluidic devices, nanotechnology and biotechnology, etc.