A method of simultaneous field- and flow-directed assembly of anisotropic titania (TiO2) nanoparticle films from a colloidal suspension is presented. Titania particles are oriented by an alternating (ac) electric field as they simultaneously advect towards a drying front due to evaporation of the solvent. At high field frequencies (ν > ∼25 kHz) and field strengths (E > 300 V cm−1), the particles orient with their major axis along the field direction. As the front recedes, a uniform film with thicknesses of 1–10 µm is deposited on the substrate. The films exhibit a large birefringence (Δn ≈ 0.15) and high packing fraction (ϕ = 0.75 ± 0.08), due to the orientation of the particles. When the frequency is lowered, the particle orientation undergoes a parallel–random–perpendicular transition with respect to the field direction. The orientation dependence on field frequency and strength is explained by the polarizability of ellipsoidal particles using an interfacial polarization model. Particle orientation in the films also leads to anisotropic mechanical properties, which are manifested in their cracking patterns. In all, it is demonstrated that the field-directed assembly of anisotropic particles provides a powerful means for tailoring nanoparticle film properties in situ during the deposition process.
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