Researchers have discovered a new method for self-assembly of microparticles, which allows the production of new functional materials using only electrostatic charge..
The essence of the self-assembly process is that tiny particles recognize each other and bind together in a predetermined way. This happens after a change in conditions or the completion of an event..
One approach to programming particles for self-assembly involves covering them with DNA strands that define the locations and modes of communication. However, it requires the use of a significant amount of genetic material, which makes it expensive and limits the scale of final products..
A team of chemists at New York University has discovered an easier method for self-assembly. In the course of their research, they found that through an electrostatic charge, ordinary microparticles can spontaneously organize into highly ordered crystalline materials that mimic precious stones such as opal.
According to scientists, this method is similar to the process of salt crystal formation. Once in water, it dissolves into negatively charged chlorine ions and positively charged sodium ions. When the water evaporates, separated particles self-recombine into salt crystals.
In their work, instead of individual atoms, chemists used colloidal particles that are thousands of times larger. When mixed under the right conditions, they behave like ions and, under the influence of the natural surface charge of the particles, they self-organize into a crystal..
Scientists have learned to collect gems from microparticles using an electrostatic charge
The team used self-assembly to create colloidal materials that mimic not only rock salt but opals as well. Moreover, their internal microstructure is similar to the original and also interacts with light..
Scientists have also recently developed a new structure of a lamellar nanolattice, which has the highest indicator of mechanical strength to date, higher than that of diamond.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: New York University