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Scientists working at the University of California (UC) Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley national laboratory (Berkeley lab) have supervised the fitting together of nanoparticles to make materials that are device-ready. They applied a cheap and almost easy technique to produce thin films composed of multiple-layers. These thin films have a broad spectrum of application.
Ting Xu, a polymer scientist who led the research, declared that the technique they used to make thin films could be also applied to making larger films out of nanoparticles obtained from different materials except for gold.
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Nanoparticles are described as atoms that are artificial and have unique electrical, mechanical, and optical properties. Since these particles can be manipulated to produce hierarchical patterns and compound structures, they could be applied in massive production of devices that are even smaller than microtechnologies.
For the past ten years Xu and her group of researchers have been making advances aiming at reaching their goal of massive nanomanufacturing. For instance, they carried out a study in the beginning of this year and were able to self-assemble nanocrystals, making macroscopic structures of several dimensions. Xu pointed out that their supramolecular approach required no chemical modifications and offered a strong platform to study the correlations between nanoparticles structures and their properties.
In order to guide nanoparticles into self-assembly, Xu and her fellow researchers developed a technique which uses supramolecules of co-polymers. After self-assembly these supramolecules form different structures and contain microdomains of several nanometers. These microdomains offer a perfect structuralframework for nanoparticles to co-self-assemble.
In their latest studyXu and her fellow researchers included nanoparticles of gold into supramolecules, obtained from block co-polymer solutions making films that had a thickness range of 100 to 200 nanometers. These nanocomposite films had microdomains of cylindrical or lamellar structure, or both. Nanoparticles in cylindrical microdomains formed chains of 1-D, while those of lamellar microdomains had sheets of 2-D packed hexagonally.
Supramolecules of the block co-polymer undergoes formational changes due to the inclusion of nanoparticles in their structure. The outcome of this is disorganization and disintegration of the general structure of nanocomposite thin films, distribution and placement of nanoparticles. Xu results showed the possibility of producing nanoparticles of high-ordered lattices inside microdomains of block co-polymer, hence acquiring nanoparticles assemblies of 3-D hierarchy with exact morphological control.
It was noted that the distance between particles of gold nanoparticles was about 8 to 10 nanometers in the 2-D sheets and 1-D chains, and this rose curiosity concerning restriction of a light beam in spaces which are ultra-cramped. The technology of plasmonics has a great promising application in optical microscopy and superfast computers, although construction of metamaterials using nanoparticles of noble metals has proved to be a major challenge.
Xu reports that these films should be used to examine the unique properties of plasmonics in order to make next-generation photonic and electronic devices. Also she notes that supramolecular technique they had presented earlier may also be applied to construction of plasmonics metamaterials. Golden potential for gold thin films is a very important scientific innovation as it would offer application to many fields, including energy harvesting, energy storage, remote-sensing, catalysis, light management, plasmonics, and even enhancement of memory storage of computers. Energy harvesting and storage would greatly benefit the society as they would be able to effectively harness and store energy.
In respect of plasmonics, it would raise technology to higher level by developing superfast computers and enhancing their memory storage. Plasmonics technology is also applicable in optical microscopy. It could be useful in health institutions in detecting parasites and diseases with the help of microscopy; it will help to begin treatment earlier.