Issue Date: April 16, 2007
Coordinating the assembly of just a few nanoparticles is no easy task, but corralling enough of the unruly particles to form a macroscopic material takes skilled scientific herding techniques.
Now, a group of chemical cowboys led by Northwestern University's Bartosz A. Grzybowski has developed a straightforward method for assembling nanospheres made of gold, silver, platinum, or palladium into moldable metal materials (Science 2007, 316, 261).
The new method employs long-chain dithiol cross-linkers to glue the nanoparticles to one another. The resulting claylike material can then be molded into myriad millimeter-sized structures that are electrically conductive.
Heating to about 50 ??C hardens the metallic clay into porous polycrystalline metal. Furthermore, the researchers can control the porosity, suggesting possible applications in separations science and catalysis.
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