Formation of printable granular and colloidal chains through capillary effects and dielectrophoresis

Zbigniew Rozynek, Ming Han, Filip Dutka, Piotr Garstecki, Arkadiusz Józefczak, and Erik Luijtena

(Silver Coated Hollow Glass Microspheres: 10-20, 53-63um)

(Conductive Silver Coated Solid Glass Microspheres: 86-110um)

(Stainless Steel Microspheres: 23-28, 95-105, 190-220, 480-520um)

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One-dimensional conductive particle assembly holds promise for a variety of practical applications, in particular for a new generation of electronic devices. However, synthesis of such chains with programmable shapes outside a liquid environment has proven difficult. Here we report a route to simply ‘pull' flexible granular and colloidal chains out of a dispersion by combining field-directed assembly and capillary effects. These chains are automatically stabilized by liquid bridges formed between adjacent particles, without the need for continuous energy input or special particle functionalization. They can further be deposited onto any surface and form desired conductive patterns, potentially applicable to the manufacturing of simple electronic circuits. Various aspects of our route, including the role of particle size and the voltages needed, are studied in detail. Looking towards practical applications, we also present the possibility of two-dimensional writing, rapid solidification of chains and methods to scale up chain production.