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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2017-05-30 11:05:46
    • Article ID: 675511

    Tricking Molecules Into Creating New Nano-Shapes

    Scientists coax simple molecules into forming complex three-dimensional structures for faster, more energy-efficient electronics.

    • Credit: Image courtesy of Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratory

      Diverse, never-before seen nanostructures. Scientists developed a suite of methods that can coax simple nanomaterials (example shown in center) into spontaneously forming much more complex nanostructures. Three examples are shown, along with schematics of the three-dimensional order.

    The Science

    Making small structures, at the nanometer length scale, is extremely difficult. However, these structures are vital for faster, denser more energy-efficient computing devices. Scientists have devised materials that can create complex three-dimensional structures. They did it by exploiting how molecules self-assemble, spontaneously packing into nano-sized shapes. Also, they took advantage of how materials respond to the surfaces they are cast on. When correctly designed, materials can be coaxed into never-before-seen structures.

    The Impact

    This work greatly broadens the diversity and complexity of nanostructures that can be formed using self-assembling molecules. Today’s self-assembling materials make simple repeating patterns. The new method allows for complex structures. These structures mean forming different nano-patterns in different parts of a material. More complex structures will enable better microchips, water filter membranes and batteries.

    Summary

    Self-assembly is a powerful concept for making nanoscale structures where molecules are designed to spontaneously pack themselves into the desired shape or pattern without lithographic patterning. However, conventional self-assembly yields a small library of very simple shapes. In this work, scientists at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) devised responsive self-assembling systems, where the molecules reorganize in response to external influences. In particular, this enables simple molecules to form much more complex patterns—indeed they can form three-dimensional nanostructures that would never form using conventional self-assembling materials.

    Scientists at the CFN used thin films of block copolymers (BCP)—chains of two distinct molecules linked together. Through well-established techniques, the scientists spread BCP films across a substrate, applied heat, and watched the material self-assemble into a prescribed configuration. To make subsequent layers “talk to each other,” the team infused each layer with a vapor of inorganic molecules to seal the structure, which allowed each layer to act as a template for the one above it. This technique demonstrated the formation of a broad range of nanostructures never before observed. This fundamental breakthrough substantially broadens the diversity and complexity of structures that can be made with self-assembly, and correspondingly broadens the range of potential applications. For example, intricate three-dimensional nanostructures could yield transformative improvements in nano-porous membranes for water purification, bio-sensing, catalysis, or dense computer memories and microprocessors.

     

    Funding

    This research used resources of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials and the National Synchrotron Light Source II, which are U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science user facilities, at Brookhaven National Laboratory under contract DE-SC0012704.

    Publications

    A. Stein, G. Wright, K.G. Yager, G.S. Doerk, and C.T. Black "Selective directed self-assembly of coexisting morphologies using block copolymer blendsExternal link." Nature Communications 7, 12366 (2016). [DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12366]

    A. Rahman, P.W. Majewski, G. Doerk, C.T. Black, and K.G. Yager. “Non-native three-dimensional block copolymer morphologiesExternal link.” Nature Communications 7, 13988 (2016). [DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13988]

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    New PMLD Technique Improves Tools to Form Organic Multilayers

    Researchers have developed a new class of molecular layer deposition chemistry that paves the way for a new photoactivated molecular layer deposition technique. They report that their new method will expand the tool kit for forming covalently bound organic multilayers at surfaces. These emerging deposition techniques have enabled engineers to produce organic thin films with improved conformality. Richard Closser, Stanford University, will present the findings at the AVS 65th International Symposium and Exhibition, Oct. 21-26, 2018.

    Spotlighting Differences in Closely-Related Species

    Aspergillus fungi play roles in fields including bioenergy, health, and biotechnology. In Nature Genetics, a team led by scientists at the Technical University of Denmark, the DOE Joint Genome Institute, and the Joint Bioenergy Institute, present the first large analysis of an Aspergillus fungal subgroup, section Nigri.

    Researchers switch material from one state to another with a single flash of light

    Scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have demonstrated a surprisingly simple way of flipping a material from one state into another, and then back again, with single flashes of laser light.

    The Stories Behind the Science: How Does the Ocean's Saltiness Affect Tropical Storms?

    Two researchers with personal experience of hurricanes set out to investigate the role of an underestimated factor in storm's strength - salinity. They found that salinity plays a larger role than anyone thought, including them.

    Surprise finding: Discovering a previously unknown role for a source of magnetic fields

    Feature describes unexpected discovery of a role the process that seeds magnetic fields plays in mediating a phenomenon that occurs throughout the universe and can disrupt cell phone service and knock out power grids on Earth.

    Genetic behavior reveals cause of death in poplars essential to ecosystems, industry

    Scientists studying a valuable, but vulnerable, species of poplar have identified the genetic mechanism responsible for the species' inability to resist a pervasive and deadly disease. Their finding could lead to more successful hybrid poplar varieties for increased biofuels and forestry production and protect native trees against infection.

    Pushing the (Extra Cold) Frontiers of Superconducting Science

    Ames Laboratory has developed a method to measure magnetic properties of superconducting and magnetic materials that exhibit unusual quantum behavior at very low temperatures in high magnetic fields.

    Scientists Find Unusual Behavior in Topological Material

    Argonne scientists have identified a new class of topological materials made by inserting transition metal atoms into the atomic lattice of a well-known two-dimensional material.

    Wind Farms and Reducing Hurricane Precipitation

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    New simulations confirm efficiency of waste-removal process in plasma device

    PPPL scientists have found evidence suggesting that a process could remove the unwanted ash produced during fusion reactions and make the fusion processes more efficient within a type of fusion facility known as a field-reversed configuration device.


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    Physicist Takes Cues from Artificial Intelligence

    In the world of computing, there's a groundswell of excitement for what is perceived as the impending revolution in artificial intelligence. Like the industrial revolution in the 19th century and the digital revolution in the 20th, the AI revolution is expected to change the way we live and work. Now, Cristiano Fanelli aims to bring the AI revolution to nuclear physics.

    Engineering professor receives Department of Energy grant

    New Mexico State University Department of Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Ehsan Dehghan Niri has received a United States Department of Energy grant. This is a three-year award for $400,000 and is a collaboration with Arizona State University.

    Argonne and Capstone receive funding to advance thermal energy storage technology

    The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and Capstone Turbine Corp. have received $380,000 in DOE Technology Commercialization Funding to refine Argonne's high-efficiency, fast charging/discharging latent heat thermal energy storage system (TESS) for use in building applications and process/manufacturing industries.

    AVS and AIP Publishing Expand Partnership to Launch AVS Quantum Science

    AIP Publishing and AVS: Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing (AVS) today announced an agreement to publish AVS Quantum Science, a new online interdisciplinary journal. The announcement coincides with the AVS 65th International Symposium & Exhibition in Long Beach, California, from October 21-26, 2018.

    Prototype Solar Energy, Battery Systems to Fuel Commercialization

    Designing, building and testing prototype systems that show how renewable energy can power devices, such as a weather and soil sensor station, can help bridge the gap between basic science research and commercialization.

    Argonne to Advance High Performance Computing in Manufacturing

    Argonne awarded funding to partner with Industry to advance the use of high performance computing in manufacturing.

    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.


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    Cryocooler Cools an Accelerator Cavity

    Researchers demonstrated cryogen-free operation of a superconducting radio-frequency cavity that might ease barriers to its use in societal applications.

    Shining Light on the Separation of Rare Earth Metals

    New studies identify key molecular characteristics to potentially separate rare earth metals cleanly and efficiently with light.

    Placing Atoms for Optimum Catalysts

    Precise positioning of oxygens could help engineer faster, more efficient energy-relevant chemical transformations.

    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.


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