self-assembly (rus. самосборка) — a process of formation of ordered supramolecular structures or media in which the components (elements) of original structure remain almost unchanged but band together to form the resulting complex structure.


Self-assembly is a typical method to fabricate nanostructures (nanomaterials) in the "bottom-up" process. The main problem that hampers implementation of this concept is the need to influence the system's parameters and set properties of individual particles in such a way as to make them get organised into the desired structure. Self-assembly forms the basis of many supramolecular chemistry processes where "instructions" on how to assemble large objects are "encoded" in the structural features of individual molecules. We should distinguish self-assembly from self-organisation, which can be used as a mechanism to create complex "patterns", processes and structures at a higher hierarchical level of organisation than the one observed in the initial system (see the Figure). The differences lie in numerous and multi-choice component interactions at low levels which have their own, local, laws of interaction different from the laws of collective behaviour of the ordering system itself. The self-organisation processes are characterised by their different scale of interaction energies as well as restrictions of the system's degrees of freedom on several different levels of organisation. Thus, the self-assembly process is a simpler phenomenon. Nevertheless, we should not go to extremes assuming, for example, that the growth of monocrystals is nothing but the self-assembly of atoms (which agrees, in principle, with the definition); although, on the other hand, the self-assembly of larger objects, e.g. micro beads of the same size forming a dense spherical packing to grow the so-called photonic crystal (three-dimensional diffraction grating composed of micro beads) is a typical example of self-assembly. The term "self-assembly" can be applied to the formation of self-monomolecular layers (e.g., molecules of thiols on the smooth surface of gold film), formation of Langmuir-Blodgett films, layer-by-layer deposition etc.


Examples of self-assembly: typical projections of binary superlattices formed by different nano
Examples of self-assembly: typical projections of binary superlattices formed by different nanoparticles, and model elementary cells of corresponding 3D structures. Author: Dmitry Talapin, University of Chicago, USA [1].


  • Goodilin Evgeny A.


  1. Philosophy of nanosynthesis (in Russian). // Nanometr, 2007. — (reference date: 12.12.2011).
  2. Self-assembly // Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia. — (reference date: 12.12.2011).

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