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Researchers at the University of Surrey show the controlled synthesis of nanomaterials by subjecting pure organic molecular gas to high temperatures and pressures that allow symmetry breaking events to create the different carbon nanostructures. Spheres, nanotubes and mirrored spirals can be created under the appropriate isovolumetric conditions that show the versatility of this unique growth system. The report is published in the January 2011 issue of the premiere journal in nanotechnology, Nano Letters.
Self-organisation of matter is essential for natural pattern formation, chemical synthesis, as well as modern material science. Mechanisms governing natural formation of symmetric patterns have long intrigued scientists and remain central to modern science from attempts to understand spirals and twists of climbing plants to the studies of bacterial macrofibers and DNA. Self-assembly of atoms and molecules is the key to understanding the natural shape formation and is elemental to the production of modern materials, such as silicon, synthetic polymers, and various nano- and microstructures.
Dr Hidetsugu Shiozawa, of the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surrey, said: "The work represents a concept to experiment with self-assembly process and demonstrates how morphological symmetry of nano- and microstructures can be controlled. The study of such physical phenomena helps us understand why certain symmetry of structure emerges amongst others, and how this is correlated with physical quantities of thermodynamic equilibrium such as temperature and pressure."
Professor Ravi Silva, FREng, Director of the ATI and co-author, indicated: "The creation of new technologies and businesses are highly dependent on this ability to create designer materials of the highest quality. The UK is renowned for its highly creative and innovative research force, for which this is a prime example. To create a strong manufacturing base, we must back high quality research that has potential to create new markets and novel products such as those enabled by these symmetric carbon nanostructures. It will lead to transformative technologies."
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