A simple and general method for constructing complex structures using self-assemble has been developed by materials scientists at the University of Illinois. The work, involves tiny colloidal particles called triblock Janus spheres, and represents a significant step towards fabricating non-trivial, non-obvious structures from very simple building blocks, the developers say. "People know a lot about how to do [self-assembly] with molecules - soaps for example - but scientists and engineers know very little about how to make it happen with particles," team leader Steve Granick says. "Particles are very different from molecules, they're big, they're non-flexible, and they have lots of critically different materials properties." He adds that the approach might allow researchers in the future to mix together a soup of particles and fish out a designer computer chip. "Someday maybe we could have a soup of different components, remove some of it, and there would be a microelectronic chip," he explains. "It's a brand new area. The materials are so different that the structures that they form will be different."