The role of interparticle and external forces in nanoparticle assembly.
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The past 20 years have witnessed simultaneous multidisciplinary explosions in experimental techniques for synthesizing new materials, measuring and manipulating nanoscale structures, understanding biological processes at the nanoscale, and carrying out large-scale computations of many-atom and complex macromolecular systems. These advances have led to the new disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering. For reasons that are discussed here, most nanoparticles do not 'self-assemble' into their thermodynamically lowest energy state, and require an input of energy or external forces to 'direct' them into particular structures or assemblies. We discuss why and how a combination of self- and directed-assembly processes, involving interparticle and externally applied forces, can be applied to produce desired nanostructured materials.