LEGO-Inspired Nanoparticles Make Manipulation Easy

The nanoscale LEGO-like building blocks have potential applications in drug delivery, chemical sensing and energy storage.

AsianScientist (Oct. 27, 2016) – Researchers in Australia have developed a nanoscale engineering method that transforms tiny particles into LEGO-like modular building blocks. The work was published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Nano-objects are difficult to manipulate as they’re too tiny to see directly by eye, far too small to hold, and often have incompatible surfaces for assembling into ordered structures, according to Professor Frank Caruso from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Melbourne. To address this, Caruso said that the research team nano-engineered building blocks to tailor the development of advanced materials.

“Assembling LEGO bricks into complex shapes is relatively easy, as LEGO studs ensure the blocks stick together wherever you want. We used a similar strategy as a basis for assembling nano-objects into complex architectures by first coating them with a universal adhesive material, a polyphenol, so that they resemble the studs on LEGO bricks,” Caruso said.

The ‘studs’ in the LEGO brick-like structures, known as C/G studs from the polyphenols, provide a super-structuring process for assembling and inter-locking the building blocks using multiple anchor points. This allows for a range of nano-objects to stick together around a template, where the template determines the final shape of the assembled structure, Caruso said.

This simple and modular approach has been demonstrated for 15 representative materials to form different sizes, shapes, compositions and functionalities. Compositions include polymeric particles, metal oxide particles and wires, noble metal nanoparticles, coordination polymer nanowires, nanosheets and nanocubes, and biologicals.

The researchers say that their work holds promise for micro- and nano-scale applications including drug delivery, chemical sensing and energy storage.

The article can be found at: Guo et al. (2016) Modular Assembly of Superstructures from Polyphenol-functionalized Building Blocks.


Source: University of Melbourne.
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