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July 7th, 2007
Nanotechnology wagon wheels
It looks like a tiny wagon wheel: Scanning tunneling microscope images published in the journal Angewandte Chemie ("Molecularly Defined Shape-Persistent 2D Oligomers: The Covalent-Template Approach to Molecular Spoked Wheels") depict giant molecules with a diameter of 7 nm, whose "hub", "spokes", and "rim" are clearly recognizable. This unusual, highly symmetric structure was made by a team led by Sigurd Höger (University of Bonn); the pictures were taken by a Belgian team headed by Steven De Feyter (Kath. Univ. Leuven).
Two-dimensional particles, such as inorganic alumina platelets, are used as fillers for plastics because they impart excellent mechanical properties to these materials. Nanocomposites made of alumina platelets and polymers are thus extraordinarily rigid, strong, and thermally stable materials. The barrier properties of plastics with respect to liquids and gasses, such as oxygen, could be improved by the addition of nanoscopic platelets. This would be useful for applications such as food packaging, and makes less expensive, more environmentally friendly plastics accessible.
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