Materials made from nanoparticles hold promise for myriad applications, from improved solar energy production to perfect touch screens. The challenge in creating these wonder-materials is organizing the nanoparticles into orderly arrangements.
Nanoparticles of magnetite, the most abundant magnetic material on earth, are found in living organisms from bacteria to birds. Nanocrystals of magnetite self-assemble into fine compass needles in the organism that help it to navigate.
Collaborating with nanochemists led by Rafal Klajn at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who found that magnetite nanocubes can self-assemble into helical superstructures under certain conditions, University of Illinois at Chicago theoretical chemist Petr Kral and his students simulated the phenomenon and explained the conditions under which it can occur. The joint study is online in Science Express in advance of print in the Sept. 5 issue of Science.
The Weizmann researchers dissolved the nanocrystals and exposed the solution to an external magnetic field. As the solution evaporated, helical chains of nanoparticles formed. Surprisingly, the spiral helices were chiral -- that is, either left- or right-handed -- despite the fact that the nanoparticles themselves are not chiral. Densely packed assemblies of helices tended to adopt the same handedness.
Kral's UIC team modeled the self-assembly to determine how helices formed in their collaborators' experiments -- and why the helices had chirality.
They found that the self-assembly into chiral helices is the result of the competing forces acting on them — Zeeman force from the external magnetic field, dipole-dipole magnetic force, magneto-anisotropic directional force, weakly attractive van der Waals forces, and others. The chemistry of the nanoparticle ligands, the solvent, and temperature may also play a role.
In the presence of an external magnetic field, the superparamagnetic nanocubes — which are randomly magnetic and can flip with temperature changes — became tiny magnets with different symmetries of the competing forces acting between them. As a result, when two cubes are face-to-face, they tend to tilt with respect to each other, forming a small angle to the right or left — the seed of a chiral helix, as more nanocubes line up with the first two.
Kral's analysis used a Monte Carlo computer algorithm, which relies on repeated random sampling, running simulations many times over.
"We had to write a new, efficient Monte Carlo computer code describing all the necessary terms, all the values, and then explain how the highly unusual behavior that Klajn observed – the helices' self-assembly – happens," Kral said.
Gurvinder Singh of the Weizmann Institute is first author of the paper. Elijah Gelman of the Weizmann Institute, and Henry Chan, Artem Baskin and Nikita Repnin of UIC are co-authors on the study.
The work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation grant 1463/11, the G. M. J. Schmidt-Minerva Center for Supramolecular Architectures, the Minerva Foundation with funding from the Federal German Ministry for Education and Research, National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research grant 1309765 and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund grant 53062-ND6.
Jeanne Galatzer-Levy | Eurek Alert!
Porous crystalline materials: TU Graz researcher shows method for controlled growth
07.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz
Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics
06.12.2016 | Georgia Institute of Technology
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering