Manipulating matter with a snap of your fingers
A touch of Thanos in colloid science
Being able to manipulate matter has been a long-standing goal in material science. Would it not be amazing if we could control matter on the grand scale that Thanos does when in possession of the Infinity Stones in Avengers: Infinity War? In this paper, we evaluate how far mankind has come in the pursuit of Thanos-like matter manipulation powers. As the properties of everyday objects are directly linked to the spatial organization of the elementary building blocks on the micro- or even nano-scale, control on these length scales is crucial. In this respect, the use of colloids is a promising strategy. Colloids are characterized by dimensions in between those of atoms and macroscopic objects such as a chemistry textbook and your smartphone. Although colloidal particles are small enough to display behaviour reminiscent of that of atoms and molecules, they are big enough for scientists to manipulate them on the single-particle level. By playing with the shape and chemistry of these colloids, materials that are sensitive to external triggers, such as light or temperature, can be created. By controlling the trigger, the colloidal matter can be manipulated, formed, or destroyed. Clearly, at the microscale, we can compete with Thanos, even without the Infinity Stones.