BERKELEY, CA If the promise of nanotechnology is to be fulfilled, nanoparticles will have to be able to make something of themselves. An important advance towards this goal has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who have found a simple and yet powerfully robust way to induce nanoparticles to assemble themselves into complex arrays.
By adding specific types of small molecules to mixtures of nanoparticles and polymers, the researchers are able to direct the self-assembly of the nanoparticles into arrays of one, two and even three dimensions with no chemical modification of either the nanoparticles or the block copolymers. In addition, the application of external stimuli, such as light and/or heat, can be used to further direct the assemblies of nanoparticles for even finer and more complex structural details.
"We've demonstrated a simple yet versatile approach to precisely controlling the spatial distribution of readily available nanoparticles over multiple length scales, ranging from the nano to the macro," says Ting Xu, a polymer scientist who led this project and who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and the University of California, Berkeley's Departments of Materials Sciences and Engineering, and Chemistry. "Our technique can be used on a wide variety of nanoparticle and should open new routes to the fabrication of nanoparticle-based devices including highly efficient systems for the generation and storage of solar energy."
Xu is the corresponding author on a paper describing this work that has been published by the journal Nature Materials. The paper is titled: "Small molecule-directed nanoparticle assembly towards stimuli-responsive nanocomposites." Co-authoring this paper with her were Yue Zhao, Kari Thorkelsson, Alexander Mastroianni, Thomas Schilling, Joseph Luther, Benjamin Rancatore, Kazuy
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DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory