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Doping Liquid Crystals of Colloidal Inorganic Nanotubes by Additive-Free Metal Nanoparticles


Doping liquid-crystal phases with nanoparticles is a fast-growing field with potential breakthroughs due to the combination of the properties brought by the two components. One of the main challenges remains the long-term stability of the hybrid system, requiring complex functionalization of the nanoparticles at the expense of their self-assembly properties. Here we demonstrate the successful synthesis of additive-free noble-metal nanoparticles at the surface of charged inorganic nanotubes. Transmission electron microscopy and UV-visible spectroscopy confirm the stabilization of metallic nanoparticles on nanotubes. Meanwhile, the spontaneous formation of liquid-crystals phases induced by the nanotubes is observed, even after surface modification with metallic nanoparticles. Small-angle X-ray scattering experiments reveal that the average interparticle distance in the resulting hybrids can be easily modulated by controlling electrostatic interactions. As a proof-of-concept, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our method for the preparation of homogeneous transparent hybrid films with a high degree of alignment.