Asymmetric self-assembly of oppositely charged composite microgels and gold nanoparticles
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The electrostatically driven self-assembly of oppositely charged gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) and polystyrene/poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PS/PNIPAm) core-shell microgels (CSMs) has been investigated. The co-assembly was accomplished by addition of smaller Au NPs to CSMs in dilute conditions up to a number ratio of about 1 : 1, when the suspension is destabilized. A combination of different techniques (i.e. turbidimetric titration, electrophoretic mobility, UV-visible spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering and microscopy techniques) were used to investigate the association between the two particles and the stability of the different mixtures. Hereby we demonstrate that the size ratio between the two particles (about 4 to 1) and the asymmetric character of the association result in the formation of electrostatic hybrid complexes, analogous to dipolar colloidal molecules, which further rearrange into finite sized clusters for number ratios N(AuNPs)/N(CSMs) < 1.