Date Published:2010 Jun 8
We demonstrate that homogeneous monodisperse rods in the presence of attractive interactions assemble into equilibrium 2D fluid-like membranes composed of a one-rod length thick monolayer of aligned rods. Unique features of our system allow us to simultaneously investigate properties of these membranes at both continuum and molecular lengthscales. Analysis of thermal fluctuations at continuum lengthscales yields the membranes' lateral compressibility and bending rigidity and demonstrates that the properties of colloidal membranes are comparable to those of traditional lipid bilayers. Fluctuations at molecular lengthscales, in which single rods protrude from the membrane surface, are directly measured by comparing the positions of individual fluorescently labeled rods within a membrane to that of the membrane's continuum conformation. As two membranes approach each other in suspension, protrusion fluctuations are suppressed leading to effective repulsive interactions. Motivated by these observations, we propose an entropic mechanism that explains the stability of colloidal membranes and offers a general design principle for the self-assembly of 2D nanostructured materials from rod-like molecules.