Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCI gold chain study gets to heart of matter

29.08.2002


Discovery reveals smallest size molecules form functional structures; nanotechnology, research implications may be significant



While it may not make much of an anniversary present, a gold chain built atom by atom by UC Irvine physicist Wilson Ho offers an answer to one of the basic questions of nanotechnology—how small can you go?

In the first study of its kind, Ho and his colleagues have discovered the molecular phase when a cluster of atoms develops into a solid structure, a finding that can have a significant impact in the future development of metal structures built at the molecular scale. The study—which appears on the Science Express website, a service of Science magazine—also suggests a limit on the tiniest size that electrically conductive molecules can be constructed, and it presents a new method for researchers to build and examine these structures.


"This research answers fundamental questions on how solids form from an assembly of single atoms," said Ho, the Donald Bren Professor of Physics & Astronomy and Chemistry. "It allows us for the first time to see matter form in its smallest unit, and it can have important implications for the construction of metallic nanostructures that can be used in catalysis, electronic circuits and data storage."
Ho, working with fellow UCI researchers Niklas Nilius and T. Mitch Wallis, employed a scanning tunneling microscope to build a chain of gold atoms in order to measure how electron states change as more atoms are added to the chain. Starting with a single atom and adding one at a time, the researchers succeeded in measuring the electrical conductivity in these states as the atoms shared electrons, and these measurements varied dramatically as atoms were added to the chain. The scanning tunneling microscope enabled the researchers not only to manipulate individual atoms but also to capture images of the chain and measure its properties. As a result, the researchers were able to obtain a clear connection between the geometry of the fabricated nanostructure and its electronic properties.

As the researchers added the fifth and sixth atoms, the chain began to exhibit the collective properties of a bulk structure, which is when atoms in a molecule lose their individual characteristics and assume those of the overall structure. It is at this point when a metallic molecule becomes conductive and can be used as an electrical conduit.

Ultimately, the gold chain reached 20 atoms long, although in principle there is no limit to how long a chain can be built. In measurements taken as the chain grew from six atoms to 20, the states for the electrons showed only small variations and had practically converged to show properties typical of solids with a larger number of atoms. Ho said that the consistency of these latter measurements further support the concept that a functional gold structure can be built with as few as six atoms.

"What these experiments provide is a new way to study the electronic properties of materials at a nanoscale," Ho said. "We have been able to build a gold bulk structure with six atoms, but in a larger scale, we are starting to answer the question of how many atoms are needed to build a material that has potential utility.

"While it is not practical to mass produce these chains as one-dimensional conductors, catalysts or data storage devices, these studies provide a scientific basis for future nanotechnology," he added. "The results from this research contribute to our understanding of the behavior of matter as a function of its size."

In further research, Ho and his colleagues are studying the electronic properties both of gold atoms constructed in a two-dimensional array and of a chain of silver atoms. Ho used gold in this study because of its unique electronic properties that can be readily observed and controlled through the use of a scanning tunneling microscope. By extending the present study to include other types of atoms, it would be possible to understand a wide range of materials such as alloys, magnets and catalysts at the nanoscale.

Nilius is a UCI postdoctoral researcher, and Wallis is a graduate student on leave-of-absence from Cornell University. The National Science Foundation funded the research.

Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://today.uci.edu/r

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Abrupt motion sharpens x-ray pulses
28.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik

nachricht Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses
27.07.2017 | Universität Innsbruck

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Abrupt motion sharpens x-ray pulses

Spectrally narrow x-ray pulses may be “sharpened” by purely mechanical means. This sounds surprisingly, but a team of theoretical and experimental physicists developed and realized such a method. It is based on fast motions, precisely synchronized with the pulses, of a target interacting with the x-ray light. Thereby, photons are redistributed within the x-ray pulse to the desired spectral region.

A team of theoretical physicists from the MPI for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg has developed a novel method to intensify the spectrally broad x-ray...

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 3-D imaging reveals how human cell nucleus organizes DNA and chromatin of its genome

28.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heavy metals in water meet their match

28.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Oestrogen regulates pathological changes of bones via bone lining cells

28.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>