A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory, Harvard University, and Bar-Ilan University in Israel have grown ultrathin films made of organic molecules on the surface of liquid mercury. The results, reported in the November 15, 2002, issue of Science, reveal a series of new molecular structures that could lead to novel applications in nanotechnology, which involves manipulating materials at the atomic scale.
This schematic drawing shows how the stearic molecules of the film rearrange as they are added onto the surface of the liquid mercury support
Growing molecular films on liquid surfaces is part of an ongoing activity by Brookhaven scientists to create nanomaterials, which are a few billionths of a meter in thickness. Ultrathin films are becoming increasingly important for fast-developing applications, such as faster and smaller electronic and magnetic devices, advanced biotechnological membranes, and controlled drug release in the human body. The Brookhaven team is a leader in the field of liquid surface-supported film growth, with expertise gained over the past 20 years.
"When you grow a film on a solid surface, the molecules of the film tend to interlock with those of the underlying support," says Benjamin Ocko, the Brookhaven physicist who participated in the study. "But an underlying liquid surface is not ordered and provides an ideal setting for studying ultrathin states of matter without the complications of the solid support."
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