Sculpted from a special kind of molecule called a “bottle-brush molecule,” the traps consist of tiny, organic tubes whose interior walls carry a negative charge. This feature enables the tubes to selectively encapsulate only positively charged particles.
University at Buffalo
An illustrated cross-section of a nanotube UB chemists created. The green structures are negatively charged carboxylic acid groups, which help trap positively charged particles.
In addition, because UB scientists construct the tubes from scratch, they can create traps of different sizes that snare molecular prey of different sizes. The level of fine tuning possible is remarkable: In the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers report that they were able to craft nanotubes that captured particles 2.8 nanometers in diameter, while leaving particles just 1.5 nanometers larger untouched.
These kinds of cages could be used, in the future, to expedite tedious tasks, such as segregating large quantum dots from small quantum dots, or separating proteins by size and charge.
Images of the bottle-brush molecule are available here: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13057.
“The shapes and sizes of molecules and nanomaterials dictate their utility for desired applications. Our molecular cages will allow one to separate particles and molecules with pre-determined dimensions, thus creating uniform building blocks for the fabrication of advanced materials,” said Javid Rzayev, the UB assistant professor of chemistry who led the research.
“Just like a contractor wants tile squares or bricks to be the same size so they fit well together, scientists are eager to produce nanometer-size particles with the same dimensions, which can go a long way toward creating uniform and well-behaved materials,” Rzayev said.
To create the traps, Rzayev and his team first constructed a special kind of molecule called a bottle-brush molecule. These resemble a round hair brush, with molecular “bristles” protruding all the way around a molecular backbone.
After stitching the bristles together, the researchers hollowed out the center of each bottle-brush molecule, leaving behind a structure shaped like a toilet paper tube.
The carving process employed simple but clever chemistry: When building their bottlebrush molecules, the scientists constructed the heart of each molecule using molecular structures that disintegrate upon coming into contact with water. Around this core, the scientists then attached a layer of negatively charged carboxylic acid groups.
To sculpt the molecule, the scientists then immersed it water, in effect hollowing the core. The resulting structure was the trap—a nanotube whose inner walls were negatively charged due to the presence of the newly exposed carboxylic acid groups.
To test the tubes’ effectiveness as traps, Rzayev and colleagues designed a series of experiments involving a two-layered chemical cocktail.
The cocktail’s bottom layer consisted of a chloroform solution containing the nanotubes, while the top layer consisted of a water-based solution containing positively charged dyes. (As in a tequila sunrise, the thinner, water-based solution floats on top of the denser chloroform solution, with little mixing.)
When the scientists shook the cocktail for five minutes, the nanotubes collided with and trapped the dyes, bringing the dyes into the chloroform solution. (The dyes, on their own, do not dissolve in chloroform.)
In similar experiments, Rzayev and his team were able to use the nanotubes to extract positively charged molecules called dendrimers from an aqueous solution.
The nanotubes were crafted so that dendrimers with a diameter of 2.8 nanometers were trapped, while dendrimers that were 4.3 nanometers across were left in solution.
To remove the captured dendrimers from the nanotubes, the researchers simply lowered the pH of the chloroform solution, which shuts down the negative charge inside the traps and allows the captured particles to be released from their cages.
The research on nanotubes is part of a larger suite of studies Rzayev is conducting on bottle-brush molecules using a National Science Foundation CAREER award. His other work includes the fabrication of bottle-brush-based nanomembranes that could be adapted for water filtration, and the assembly of layered, bottle-brush polymers that reflect visible light like the wings of a butterfly do.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.Related Stories:
Charlotte Hsu | Newswise Science News
First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife
Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.10.2016 | Process Engineering