'Molecular Legos' Net Professor, Student Nanotech Prize

Nov 04, 2005

A University of Pittsburgh researcher and his student have been awarded prestigious prizes from the Foresight Nanotech Institute for their work in developing a "molecular Lego® set" that will enable, for the first time, the quick manufacture of sturdy, predictable nanostructures.

Christian Schafmeister, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and a researcher in the University’s Institute of NanoScience and Engineering (INSE), was awarded the 2005 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for experimental work, named in honor of pioneer physicist Richard Feynman. Schafmeister’s student Christopher Levins, a doctoral candidate in chemistry, received the Foresight Distinguished Student Award for work that he did within the umbrella of Schafmeister’s research. They received the awards at the institute’s awards banquet Oct. 26.

Schafmeister has designed 14 small molecules, each of which is about half a nanometer across and includes two removable molecular caps. Controlled chemical reactions strategically strip away the caps, causing the molecules to link together in predictable ways with pairs of stiff bonds—similar to Lego® blocks. He has snapped together 3.6-nanometer rods and 1.8-nanometer crescents, and has developed software that can aid in the construction of a wide variety of shapes.

With this method of nanofabrication, which he calls “a completely new field,” Schafmeister is using his blocks to craft hinged, molecular traps that attract specific molecules, snap shut, and light up, serving as perfect chemical sensors—just one of an almost infinite number of possible uses. Molecules with customized cavities could serve as catalysts or biomedical agents. Because the molecules are large enough to have interesting functions and rigid, designed shapes, they hold great promise as nanoscale parts for future atomically precise nanoscale machines.

“We’re developing a new programming language for matter,” said Schafmeister, “and we’re writing, ‘Hello, world.’”

Levins is working on one approach to constructing complex nanoscale devices by developing a systematic methodology for the design and synthesis of rigid macromolecular scaffolds. “Chris made some of the first breakthroughs—building blocks and larger structures—in our research,” said Schafmeister.

“We’re proud to see Dr. Schafmeister and his student honored for nanotechnology research,” said University Provost James V. Maher. “Pitt’s program in nanoscience is focused on platform technologies, like Dr. Schafmeister’s, that will have a real impact on future research and applications.”

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Explore further: Mixed nanoparticle systems may help purify water and generate hydrogen

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

CERN's Large Hadron Collider gears up for run two

14 minutes ago

CERN announced today at the 174th session of the CERN Council that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is gearing up for its second three-year run. The LHC is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ...

Learning from new, very low-energy buildings

22 minutes ago

A holistic approach is necessary to successfully plan and construct energy efficient buildings. But implementing best practices elsewhere is not a straightforward task.

Recommended for you

Chemically driven micro- and nanomotors

21 hours ago

At least since the movie "The Fantastic Voyage" in 1966, in which a submarine is shrunk down and injected into the blood stream of a human, people have been toying with the idea of sending tiny "micromachines" ...

Pyramid nanoscale antennas beam light up and down

23 hours ago

Researchers from FOM Institute AMOLF and Philips Research have designed and fabricated a new type of nanoscale antenna. The new antennas look like pyramids, rather than the more commonly used straight pillars. ...

The simplest element: Turning hydrogen into 'graphene'

Dec 16, 2014

New work from Carnegie's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene ...

User comments : 0

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.