ging from 20 to 80 nanometers thick on a rubbery substrate commonly used in the microelectronics industry. The researchers compressed the film, creating wrinkles and examined their properties. As in previous studies, they saw primary wrinkles with short periodicities, the distance between individual wrinkles' peaks or valleys. But Kim and his colleagues discovered a second type of wrinkle, with a much longer periodicity than the primary wrinkles like a hidden long wave. As the researchers compressed the gold nanogranular film, the primary wrinkles' periodicity decreased, as expected. But the periodicity between the hidden long waves, which the group labeled secondary wrinkles, lengthened.
"We thought that was strange," Kim said.
It got even stranger when the group formed folds in the gold nanogranular sheets. On the surface, everything appeared normal. The folds were created as the peaks of neighboring wrinkles got so close that they touched. But the research team calculated that those folds, if elongated, did not match the length of the film before it had been compressed. A piece of the original film surface was not accounted for, "as if it had been buried," Kim said.
Indeed, it had been, as nano-size closed channels. Previous researchers, using atomic force microscopy that scans the film's surface, had been unable to see the buried channels. Kim's group turned to focused ion beams to extract a cross-section of the film. There, below the surface, were rows of closed channels, about 50 to a few 100 nanometers in diameter. "They were hidden," Kim said. "We were the first ones to cut (the film) and see that there are channels underneath."
The enclosed nano channels are important because they could be used to funnel liquids, from drugs on patches to treat diseases or infections, to clean water and energy harvesting, like a microscopic hydraulic pump.
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