The research findings recently published in Nature represent a breakthrough in the field of hierarchical structuring and nano-engineering as it allows creating new materials by self-assemble preprogrammed particles. This could be a game changer, because so far only top-down procedures, i.e., extracting a microstructure from a larger complex, are widely accepted structuring processes. "The limitations of this technique will become all too apparent in the near future," explained Mller. "Only rarely is it possible to generate complex structures in the nanometer range."
However, a bottom-up principle of self-assembly based on that employed in nature could well represent the best way forward. One factor that makes this particularly attractive is the large number of macromolecules, which are readily available as building blocks. They can be used to incorporate specific properties in the resultant superstructures, such as sensitivity to environmental stimuli (e.g. temperature, light, electric and magnetic fields, etc.) or give them the ability to be switched on and off at will. Possible applications include nanolithography and the delivery of drugs in which the time and site of release of active substances can be preprogrammed. Here, the similarity to the structural principles of animal and plant cells becomes apparent again, where various properties are compartmentalized into areas of limited space.
The macromolecules carrying diverse functional segments can be hundreds of times smaller than a micrometer. The superstructures that such macromolecules produce have correspondingly high resolution. "Future technologies such as tailor-made artificial cells, transistors, or components for micro/nano-robotics may benefit significantly from this particularly delicate structuring," explained Mller. "The research findings we published in <
|Contact: Dr. Axel H. E. Müller|
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz