Using straightforward chemistry and a mix-and-match, modular strategy, researchers have developed a simple approach that could produce over 65,000 different types of complex nanoparticles, each containing up to six different materials and eight segments, with interfaces that could be exploited in electrical or optical applications. These rod-shaped nanoparticles are about 55 nanometers long and 20 nanometers wide–by comparison a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers thick–and many are considered to be among the most complex ever made.
A paper describing the research, by a team of Penn State chemists, appears in the journal Science (“Rational construction of a scalable heterostructured nanorod megalibrary”).

“There is a lot of interest in the world of nanoscience in making nanoparticles that combine several different materials–semiconductors, catalysts, magnets, electronic materials,” said Raymond E. Schaak, DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry at Penn State and the leader of the research team. “You can think about having different semiconductors linked together to control how electrons move through a material, or arranging materials in different ways to modify their optical, catalytic, or magnetic properties. We can use computers and chemical knowledge to predict a lot of this, but the bottleneck has been in actually making the particles, especially at a large-enough scale so that you can actually use them.”

Image Credit:  Schaak Laboratory, Penn State


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