Motivated by recent experimental findings in chemical synthesis of colloidal particles, we draw an analogy between self-assembly processes occurring in biological systems (e.g. protein folding) and a new exciting possibility in the field of material science. We consider a self-assembly process whose elementary building blocks are decorated patchy colloids of various types, that spontaneously drive the system toward a unique and predetermined targeted macroscopic structure. To this aim, we discuss a simple theoretical model - the Kern-Frenkel model - describing a fluid of colloidal spherical particles with a pre-defined number and distribution of solvophobic and solvophilic regions on their surface. The solvophobic and solvophilic regions are described via a short-range square-well and a hard-sphere potentials, respectively. Integral equation and perturbation theories are presented to discuss structural and thermodynamical properties, with particular emphasis on the computation of the fluid-fluid (or gas-liquid) transition in the temperaturedensity plane. The model allows the description of both one and two attractive caps, as a function of the fraction of covered attractive surface, thus interpolating between a square-well and a hard-sphere fluid, upon changing the coverage. By comparison with Monte Carlo simulations, we assess the pros and the cons of both integral equation and perturbation theories in the present context of patchy colloids, where the computational effort for numerical simulations is rather demanding.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.