Imagine to catch one, or a few, molecules dissolved in water, lock them up in a cage with a diameter of a few hundred nanometers, and keep them locked for a given length of time. Then bring these containers with the "captive" molecules to places within the solution where you want to have them, and release the captured molecules from their captivity on chemical command. Or simply keep the molecules in the cage "prison" locked up, add a few more different molecules to water, and watch their chemical reaction following movement across the container wall in "solitary" confinement within the containers with the molecules already captured. Such dreams of nanotechnologists have come much closer to reality as a result of a discovery made by a team of researchers, lead by Professor Julius Vancso of the University of Twente, from the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology collaborating with scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Golm, Germany.
With a better understanding of how fullerenes and nanotubes form, scientists and material engineers would be in a better position to provide conditions more favorable for the formation of a particular fullerene or a particular chirality and length nanotube. Researchers have used a number of computational and theoretical tools to explain the experimental observations and develop a picture of the dynamics for fullerene growth, yet no universally agreed model exists for the fullerene growth. To understand the phenomenon of fullerene growth during its synthesis, researchers modeled a minimum energy growth route using a semi-empirical quantum mechanics code. C2 addition leading to C60 was modeled and three main routes, i.e. cyclic ring growth, pentagon and fullerene road, were studied.
New research coming out of France opens the route for the processing of numerous multifunctional materials with specific properties. So far, the design of new multifunctional devices based on the combination of different materials has been a real challenge in materials science. One way to develop multifunctional materials is the design of a surface at the nanometer scale. However, modifying the surface of materials by organizing nanoparticles of controlled size, morphology and amount of coverage into a uniform shell has proven to be a considerable hurdle. Numerous approaches are being developed for the synthesis of these materials using organic or inorganic coatings. French researchers used a coating process called supercritical fluid chemical deposition for nanomaterial surface design.
The use of design concepts adapted from nature is a promising new route to the development of advanced materials, with biominerals providing an ample source of examples. For instance, Nature's ability to manipulate poor engineering materials such as calcium carbonate to produce skeletal materials with considerable fracture resistance is an ideal inspiration for this approach. Researchers in the UK now report a simple and general approach to single crystal growth, employing structured films of generic polymers to direct the growth of single crystals. By using straightforward patterning techniques they are able to access a large variety of patterns with a continuous range of length scales from the macroscopic to the nanometer level.
Colloidal crystals constructed by monodispersed microspheres packed in ordered arrays represent a new class of advanced materials that are useful in many areas. For example, due to their novel light diffraction and photonic bandgap properties, colloidal crystals are promising elements in the fabrication of devices such as optical filters and switches, chemical and biochemical sensors, and photonic chips. Various self-assembly techniques have been developed to form colloidal crystals on different substrates, including the flow-cell methods, vertical deposition, micromolding in capillaries and so on. Although existing methods can provide colloidal crystals of different structures and quality, efficient approaches to high stability and large scale colloidal crystals are increasingly attracting attention. Generating ordered microstructures in the colloidal crystal films and colloidal crystals with different structures and configurations are particularly important in the fabrication of optical devices.
While growth processes of nanostructures are well understood, the stability of artificial nanostructures has not been thoroughly investigated. Fully understanding the fluctuations of nanostructures and their interactions with their surroundings is essential in order to achieve complete shape control of nanostructures. In recent work, French scientists address the morphogenesis, instability and catastrophic collapse of nanostructures.
Nanocrystal engineering learned from biominerals holds promises for the development in biology, chemistry, and materials science. Biominerals have inspired novel bottom-up approaches to the development of functional materials for some time now. The morphology, crystallographic orientation, incorporated organic molecules, and emergent properties of carbonate-based biominerals already have been demonstrated. Typical examples of these biominerals are certain layers of seashells, corals, and eggshells. New research now clarifies that biominerals are oriented architectures of calcium carbonate nanocrystals 20?100 nm in size with incorporation of biopolymers.
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are considered the most promising material for field emitters and a practical example are CNTs as electron emitters for field emission displays (FED). CNT emitters are generally fabricated by indirect growth methods such as screen-printing and electrophoresis. These methods show advantages in lowering the coating temperature and scale-up of the substrate size, but the direction of CNTs cannot be well controlled and a post-treatment process is generally necessary to enhance the performance of CNT emitters. In contrast to the indirect method, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is a common technique for growing nanotubes directly on the substrate with the assistance of metallic catalysts. With the CVD method, CNTs can be grown at desired locations with a specified direction. However,most synthesis technologies such as conventional thermal CVD or plasma enhanced CVD are performed at temperatures over 500 C, which may restrict the application of CNTs on plastic substrates. Therefore, lowering the growth temperature for CNTs is one of the important directions for facilitating CNT applications.