Self-faceting of emulsion droplets as a route to solid icosahedra and other polyhedra


Elsevier: Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

Volume 538, 7 March 2019, Pages 541-545




Temperature-controlled self-faceting of liquid droplets has been recently discovered in surfactant-stabilized alkane-in-water emulsions. We hypothesize that similar self-faceting may occur in emulsion droplets of UV-polymerizable linear hydrocarbons. We further hypothesize that the faceted droplet shapes can be fixed by UV-initiated polymerization, thus providing a new route towards the production of solid polyhedra.


Temperature-induced shape variations were studied by optical microscopy in micron-size emulsion droplets of UV-polymerizable alkyl acrylate. When polymerized, the resultant solid particles’ 3D shape and internal structure were determined by combined scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and focused ion beam (FIB) slicing. The SEM and FIB nanoscale resolution provided a far greater detail imaging than that achievable for the liquid droplets, which could only be studied by optical microscopy, severely limiting their 3D shape determination.


We demonstrate the formation of solid icosahedra, polyhedral platelets, and rods of hitherto-unreported sizes, well below the 3D-printing resolution (∼20μm). The presence of icosahedral shapes and the absence of any resolvable internal structure at sub-μm length scales, are in line with the surface-freezing-driven mechanism proposed for the faceting phenomenon. Further development of the method presented here may allow large-quantity production of shaped micron- to nano- sized colloidal building blocks for 3D metamaterials and other applications.


Interfacial freezing
Surface freezing
Polyhedral nanoparticles