An effective way to build ordered materials with micrometer- or submicrometer-sized features is to pack together monodisperse (equal-sized) colloidal particles. But most monodisperse particles in this size range are spheres, and thus one problem in building new micrometer-scale ordered materials is controlling how spheres pack. In this article, we discuss how this problem can be approached by constructing and studying packings in the few-sphere limit. Confinement of particles within containers such as micropatterned holes or spherical droplets can lead to some unexpected and diverse types of polyhedra that may become building blocks for more complex materials. The packing processes that form these polyhedra may also be a source of disorder in dense bulk suspensions.
Vinothan N. Manoharan is a PhD student in chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His thesis research involves the fabrication of photonic crystals by colloidal self-assembly. Manoharan received his BSE degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.
Manoharan can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
David J. Pine is professor and chair of chemical engineering and a professor of materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research interests encompass the structural, rheological, and optical properties of complex fluids, including colloidal suspensions, emulsions, surfactant solutions, and polymer solutions. He received his PhD in physics from Cornell University and has held positions at the University of Pittsburgh, Haverford College, and Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories.
Pine can be reached at the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5080, USA; tel. 805-893-7383 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.