Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have devised a technique whereby self-assembling nanoparticle arrays can form a highly ordered thin film over macroscopic distances in one minute.
Nanoparticles function as artificial atoms with unique optical, electrical and mechanical properties. If nanoparticles can be induced to self-assemble into complex structures and hierarchical patterns, similar to what nature does with proteins, it would enable mass-production of devices a thousand times smaller those used in today's microtechnology.
Ting Xu, a polymer scientist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, led a study in which supramolecules based on block copolymers were combined with gold nanoparticles to create nanocomposites that under solvent annealing quickly self-assembled into hierarchically-structured thin films spanning an area of several square centimeters.
The technique is compatible with current nanomanufacturing processes and has the potential to generate new families of optical coatings for applications in a wide number of areas, including solar energy, nanoelectronics, and computer memory storage.