Matter readily bends and twists light. That's the mechanism behind optical lenses and polarizing 3-D movie glasses. But the opposite interaction has rarely been observed, said Nicholas Kotov, principal investigator on the project. Kotov is a professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering.
While light has been known to affect matter on the molecular scale—bending or twisting molecules a few nanometers in size—it has not been observed causing such drastic mechanical twisting to larger particles. The nanoparticle ribbons in this study were between one and four micrometers long. A micrometer is one-millionth of a meter.
"I didn't believe it at the beginning," Kotov said. "To be honest, it took us three and a half years to really figure out how photons of light can lead to such a remarkable change in rigid structures a thousand times bigger than molecules."
Kotov and his colleagues had set out in this study to create "superchiral" particles—spirals of nano-scale mixed metals that could theoretically focus visible light to specks smaller than its wavelength. Materials with this unique "negative refractive index" could be capable of producing Klingon-like invisibility cloaks, said Sharon Glotzer, a professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering who was also involved in the experiments. The twisted nanoparticle ribbons are likely to lead to the superchiral materials, the professors say.
To begin the experiment, the researchers dispersed nanoparticles of cadmium telluride in a water-based solution. They checked on them intermittently with powerful microscopes. After about 24 hours under light, the nanoparticles had assembled themselves into flat ribbons. After 72 hours, they had twisted and bunched together in the process.
But when the nanoparticles were left in the dark, distinct, long, straight ribbons formed.
"We discovered that if we make flat ribbons in the dark and then illuminate them, we see a gradual twisting, twisting that increases as we shine more light," Kotov said. "This is very unusual in many ways."
The light twists the ribbons by causing a stronger repulsion between nanoparticles in them.
The twisted ribbon is a new shape in nanotechnology, Kotov said. Besides superchiral materials, he envisions clever applications for the shape and the technique used to create I it. Sudhanshu Srivastava, a postdoctoral researcher in his lab, is trying to make the spirals rotate.
"He's making very small propellers to move through fluid—nanoscale submarines, if you will," Kotov said. "You often see this motif of twisted structures in mobility organs of bacteria and cells."
The nanoscale submarines could conceivably be used for drug-delivery and in microfluidic systems that mimic the body for experiments.
This newly-discovered twisting effect could also lead to microelectromechanical systems that are controlled by light. And it could be utilized in lithography, or microchip production.
Glotzer and Aaron Santos, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, performed computer simulations that helped Kotov and his team better understand how the ribbons form. The simulations showed that under certain circumstances, the complex combination of forces between the tetrahedrally-shaped nanoparticles could conspire to produce ribbons of just the width observed in the experiments. A tetrahedron is a pyramid-shaped, three-dimensional polyhedron.
"The precise balance of forces leading to the self-assembly of ribbons is very revealing," Glotzer said. "It could be used to stabilize other nanostructures made of non-spherical particles. It's all about how the particles want to pack themselves."
Other collaborators include researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK, Chungju National University in Korea, Argonne National Laboratory, Pusan National University in Korea and Jiangnan University in China.
The paper is titled Light-Controlled Self-Assembly of Semiconductor Nanoparticles into Twisted Ribbons. The research is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At $160 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference.
Nicole Casal Moore | EurekAlert!
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy