Blood-clotting-inspired reversible polymer-colloid composite assembly in flow.

Chen H et al.

Nat Commun. 2013;4:1333. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2326.


Blood clotting is a process by which a haemostatic plug is assembled at the site of injury. The formation of such a plug, which is essentially a (bio)polymer-colloid composite, is believed to be driven by shear flow in its initial phase, and contrary to our intuition, its assembly is enhanced under stronger flowing conditions. Here, inspired by blood clotting, we show that polymer-colloid composite assembly in shear flow is a universal process that can be tailored to obtain different types of aggregates including loose and dense aggregates, as well as hydrodynamically induced 'log'-type aggregates. The process is highly controllable and reversible, depending mostly on the shear rate and the strength of the polymer-colloidbinding potential. Our results have important implications for the assembly of polymer-colloid composites, an important challenge of immense technological relevance. Furthermore, flow-driven reversible composite formation represents a new paradigm in non-equilibrium self-assembly.