Nanoscale objects are fundamentally different from either their atomic components or their bulk counterparts. Those differences extend across their optical, electrical, catalytic, and magnetic properties. For example, semiconductor nanoparticles efficiently emit light whose wavelengths, unlike in bulk semiconductors, depend on the particles’ sizes. To put those unique properties to use—for example, as nanoscale pixels in TVs that save energy and enhance performance by emitting only the desired wavelengths—researchers are establishing methods to build the nanoscale particles and biomolecules into two-dimensional and three-dimensional systems. With top-down construction methods (see the article by Matthias Imboden and David Bishop, Physics Today, December 2014, page 45), such as nanofabrication and 3D printing, researchers struggle to integrate different nanomaterial types and to provide small-scale spatial control, particularly in 3D. A promising alternative is self-assembly, in which building blocks organize themselves to minimize free energy. Self-assembly has the advantage that billions of nanoscale blocks...

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