Nano Structures Can Pose Big Measurement Problems

Apr 27, 2007

Materials scientists will tell you that to best understand, characterize and eventually utilize the properties of a specific material, you have to be able to define how the atoms within it are arranged. In the case of common crystals, there are numerous methods, such as X-ray diffraction, by which this can be done.

Not so for nanostructured materials (structures with atomic arrangements at a scale of 1-100 nanometers, or between 5 to 1,000 atoms in size) where the inability to determine atomic order with high precision has been dubbed the “nanostructure problem.”

In a paper published in the April 27 Science, researchers Igor Levin at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Simon J.L. Billinge at Michigan State University reviewed various classes of nanostructured materials, listed the array of methods currently used to study their atomic makeup and defined the problems inherent with each one.

Overall, the authors state that while many methods exist for probing the atomic structure on the nanoscale, no single technique can provide a unique structural solution.

The authors conclude their paper by calling for a coordinated effort by researchers to develop a coherent strategy for a comprehensive solution of the “nanostructure problem” using inputs from multiple experimental methods and theory.

Citation: S.J.L. Billinge and I. Levin. The problem with determining atomic structure at the nanoscale. Science, 316: 5823, April 27, 2007.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: Scientists fabricate defect-free graphene, set record reversible capacity for Co3O4 anode in Li-ion batteries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solar fuels as generated by nature

Aug 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Society's energy supply problems could be solved in the future using a model adopted from nature. During photosynthesis, plants, algae and some species of bacteria produce sugars and other energy-rich ...

Bacterial nanowires: Not what we thought they were

Aug 18, 2014

For the past 10 years, scientists have been fascinated by a type of "electric bacteria" that shoots out long tendrils like electric wires, using them to power themselves and transfer electricity to a variety ...

Scientists fold RNA origami from a single strand

Aug 14, 2014

RNA origami is a new method for organizing molecules on the nanoscale. Using just a single strand of RNA, many complicated shapes can be fabricated by this technique. Unlike existing methods for folding DNA ...

Patent solution in a canning jar

Aug 12, 2014

From shopping bags to shampoo bottles to plastic watering cans – many everyday objects both large and small might look very different if it hadn't been for the invention of chemist and Max Planck researcher ...

Recommended for you

Copper shines as flexible conductor

20 hours ago

Bend them, stretch them, twist them, fold them: modern materials that are light, flexible and highly conductive have extraordinary technological potential, whether as artificial skin or electronic paper.

Nanoparticles may aid oil recovery, frack fluid tracking

21 hours ago

Two Colorado State University researchers are examining how nanoparticles move underground, knowledge that could eventually help improve recovery in oil fields and discover where hydraulic fracking chemicals ...

Nanostructure enlightening dendrite-free metal anode

Aug 19, 2014

Graphite anodes have been widely used for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) during the past two decades. The replacement of metallic lithium with graphite enables safe and highly efficient operation of LIBs, however, ...

User comments : 0