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Materials scientists at Duke University have theorized a new "oil-and-vinegar" approach to engineering self-assembling materials of unusual architectures made out of spherical nanoparticles. The resulting structures could prove useful to applications in optics, plasmonics, electronics and multi-stage chemical catalysis.
The novel approach appeared online on March 25 in the journal ACS Nano.
Tendencies - System - Nanoparticles - Points - Contact
Left to their own tendencies, a system of suspended spherical nanoparticles designed to clump together will try to maximize their points of contact by packing themselves as tightly as possible. This results in the formation of either random clusters or a three-dimensional, crystalline structure.
But materials scientists often want to build more open structures of lower dimensions, such as strings or sheets, to take advantage of certain phenomena that can occur in the spaces between different types of particles. And they're always on the lookout for clever ways to precisely control the sizes and placements of those spaces and particles.
Study - Gaurav - Arya - Associate - Professor
In the new study, Gaurav Arya, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke, proposes a method that takes advantage of the layers formed by liquids that, like a bottle of vinaigrette left on the shelf for too long, refuse to mix together.
When spherical nanoparticles are placed into such a system, they tend to form a single layer at the interface of the opposing liquids. But they don't have to stay there. By attaching "oil" or "vinegar" molecules to the particles' surfaces, researchers can make them float more on one side of the dividing line than the other.
Particles - Number - Contacts - Structures
"The particles want to maximize their number of contacts and form bulk-like structures, but at...
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