Volume 85 Issue 16 | p. 13 | News of The Week
Issue Date: April 16, 2007

Moldable Metals

Sticky nanoparticles assemble into metal with plastic properties
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE
Golden stars and microlenses, each roughly 200 µm across, as well as a silver gear (800 ??m in diameter) made from the moldable metal
Credit: Courtesy of Bartosz Grzybowski (stars and gear) © Science 2007 (lenses)
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Golden stars and microlenses, each roughly 200 µm across, as well as a silver gear (800 ??m in diameter) made from the moldable metal
Credit: Courtesy of Bartosz Grzybowski (stars and gear) © Science 2007 (lenses)

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.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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