Designer Nanomaterials On-Demand: Scientists Report Universal Method for Creating Nanoscale Composites

Mar 19, 2010 by Aditi Risbud
These transmission electron microscope images show (a) the original nanorod array of cadmium sulfide and (b) a composite made from cadmium sulfide and the chalcogenide copper sulfide. In the composite, nanoparticle ordering is maintained but spacing between the particles decreases. Credit: Delia Milliron, Berkeley Lab

Composites are combinations of materials that produce properties inaccessible in any one material. A classic example of a composite is fiberglass - plastic fibers woven with glass to add strength to hockey sticks or the hull of a boat. Unlike the well-established techniques for producing fiberglass and other macroscale composites, however, there aren't general schemes available for making nanoscale composites.

Now, researchers at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, in collaboration with researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown how nanocomposites with desired properties can be designed and fabricated by first assembling and nanorods coated with short , called ligands. These ligands are then replaced with clusters of metal chalcogenides, such as copper sulfide. As a result, the clusters link to the nanocrystal or nanorod building blocks and help create a stable nanocomposite. The team has applied this scheme to more than 20 different combinations of materials, including close-packed nanocrystal spheres for thermoelectric materials and vertically aligned nanorods for .

"We're just starting to understand how combining materials on the nanoscale can open up new possibilities for and efficient energy technologies," said Delia Milliron, Director of the Inorganic Nanostructures Facility at the Molecular Foundry. "This new process for fabricating inorganic nanocomposites gives us unprecedented ability to tune composition and control morphology."

The researchers anticipate demand from users seeking this latest addition to the Foundry's arsenal of materials synthesis capabilities, as this mix-and-match approach to nanocomposites could be used in an infinite list of applications, including materials for such popular uses as battery electrodes, photovoltaics and electronic data storage.

"The beauty of our method is not just the flexibility of compositions that can be achieved, but the ease with which this can be done. No specialized equipment is required, a variety of substrates can be used and the process is scalable," said Ravisubhash Tangirala, a Foundry post-doctoral researcher working with Milliron.

Explore further: Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

More information: "Modular inorganic nanocomposites by conversion of nanocrystal superlattices," Angewandte Chemie International Edition, March 2010.

Related Stories

More than meets the eye: New blue light nanocrystals

Jul 21, 2009

Berkeley Lab researchers have produced non-toxic magnesium oxide nanocrystals that efficiently emit blue light and could also play a role in long-term storage of carbon dioxide, a potential means of tempering ...

Nanocrystals reveal activity within cells

Jun 16, 2009

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created bright, stable and bio-friendly nanocrystals that act as individual investigators of activity within ...

Berkeley Lab Dedicates the Molecular Foundry

Apr 03, 2006

Traditionally, a foundry has been a place where molded objects are made. The term comes from “founding,” the act of pouring a liquid material into a mold and allowing it to solidify. Since the introduction ...

A New Way Forward for Nanocomposite Nanostructures

Feb 24, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign recently reported a new technique for directly writing composites of nanoparticles and polymers.

Recommended for you

Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

Jan 28, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a comprehensive model to explain how electrons flow inside new types of solar cells made of tiny crystals. The model allows for a better understanding of such cells and may ...

Researchers use oxides to flip graphene conductivity

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, ...

Researchers make magnetic graphene

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Magnetism alas is not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic ...

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Jan 23, 2015

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get ...

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Jan 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Mar 20, 2010
Yes, Kalel's Crystal Computer may one day be reality.

This will probably represent the limit of not only building materials technology, but "non-quantum" electronic technology, i.e. composite transistors composed of perhaps just three molecules each, arranged in a three-dimensional composite crystal lattice forming RAM, cache, and processors, powered by molecule-wide nano-wires....scalable...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.