Reversible Switching of Liquid Crystalline Order Permits Synthesis of Homogeneous Populations of Dipolar Patchy Microparticles



The spontaneous positioning of colloids on the surfaces of micrometer-sized liquid crystal (LC) droplets and their subsequent polymerization offers the basis of a general and facile method for the synthesis of patchy microparticles. The existence of multiple local energetic minima, however, can generate kinetic traps for colloids on the surfaces of the LC droplets and result in heterogeneous populations of patchy microparticles. To address this issue, herein it is demonstrated that adsorbate-driven switching of the internal configurations of LC droplets can be used to sweep colloids to a single location on the LC droplet surfaces, thus resulting in the synthesis of homogeneous populations of patchy microparticles. The surface-driven switching of the LC can be triggered by addition of surfactant or salts, and permits the synthesis of dipolar microparticles as well as “Janus-like” microparticles. By using magnetic colloids, the utility of the approach is illustrated by synthesizing magnetically responsive patchy microdroplets of LC with either dipolar or quadrupolar symmetry that exhibit distinct optical responses upon application of an external magnetic field.