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Tricking Self-Assembly into Creating New Shapes

What is the scientific achievement?

In self-assembly, molecules are designed to form in a spontaneous manner desired structures, allowing rapid and scalable fabrication. However, this paradigm generates a limited set of simple shapes. CFN staff scientists have demonstrated how layers of self-assembling materials can be used to create nanostructures never realized before. Each layer guides the assembly of subsequent layers, allowing novel structures to be designed.

Why does this achievement matter?

By vastly increasing the diversity and sophistication of nanomaterials, increasingly demanding multi-functional applications can be pursued and realized.

What are the details?

new nanostructures

Click on the image to download a high-resolution version. Selected examples of new nanostructures obtained using layered assembly. Top row: Nano-dots are guided to align between every second layer of a line pattern. Middle & bottom rows: Complex, nanoporous architectures can be precisely fabricated with this method.

“Self-assembly” is a powerful concept for fabricating nanomaterials. Molecules are designed to spontaneously assemble into desired nanoscale structures, allowing large amounts of nanomaterials to be rapidly generated. However, a fairly small library of possible shapes can be formed in this way. In fact, self-assembly emphasizes simple shapes that minimize surface area, such as spheres or cylinders. In this work, we demonstrate how self-assembly can be guided to create more complex nanostructures. By layering self-assembling materials, each layer is organized by the layers that came before. In this way, one can guide the layered materials to form shapes not typically observed in self-assembly, including squares and rectangles. Using this technique, CFN researchers have demonstrated a large library of new, never-before-seen, nanoscale constructs—all spontaneously assembled over large areas.

CFN Capabilities:

CFN’s Materials Synthesis & Characterization Facility was used for the synthesis and electron microscopy characterization of the polymer assemblies.

Publication Reference

Atikur Rahman,  Pawel W. Majewski, Gregory Doerk, Charles T. Black & Kevin G. Yager, Non-native three-dimensional block copolymer morphologies, Nature Communications 7, 13988 (2016)

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13988

Acknowledgement of Support

Research carried out at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, and the National Synchrotron Light Source II, Brookhaven National Laboratory, which are supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-SC0012704.

2017-12211  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office