Let Them Grow: Scientists Discover Novel Way to Produce Valuable Nanomaterials

May 14, 2020

Let Them Grow: Scientists Discover Novel Way to Produce Valuable Nanomaterials

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Increasingly today, nanotechnology is coming into our lives, allowing us to design more efficient batteries, build lightweight vehicles, and even administer needleless vaccines. However, a major barrier to accessing the full potential of nanoscale materials is their fabrication. A team of researchers from Yale University and Wuhan University recently discovered that thermomechanical nanomolding is a reliable method for the nanofabrication of ordered phases (OPs).

OPs, a class of materials consisting of sublattices occupied by atoms, are fundamental to various functional applications. Most functional materials, including superconductors, magnetic materials and plasmonic materials, belong to this class. Creating nanoscale OPs is challenging because traditional techniques, such as chemical vapor deposition growth, are not practical. For example, chemical vapor deposition growth, a technique in which a film of vaporized, decomposing chemical is deposited onto a substrate’s surface, only works for easily vaporized OPs and cannot produce certain shapes.

But thermomechanical nanomolding can be scaled up for mass production, fine-tuned to obtain specific characteristics, and used with a variety of starting materials. In this technique, raw material was pushed into a nanomold at steady pressure and a temperature below its melting point, to produce single-crystalline nanowires of consistent composition and structure. The process could be tuned so that the nanowires’ aspect ratios were high, enabling easier access to different morphologies. The researchers attribute their results to OPs’ tendency to self-organize via a thermodynamic (stability-driven) rather than kinetic (speed-driven) mechanism. This new process will make OPs a more accessible class of nanomaterials, and enable the development of exciting new applications for nanotechnology.

Sources:

Liu, N., Xie., Y., Liu, G., Sohn, S., Raj, A., Han, G., …Schroers, J. (2020). General

Nanomolding of Ordered Phases. Physical Review Letters, 124 (3), doi: 10.1103/physrevlett.124.036102.

Benefits and Applications. Retrieved March 3, 2020 from
https://www.nano.gov/you/nanotechnology-benefits.

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