Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > New insights into nanocrystal growth in liquid: Understanding process that creates complex crystals important for energy applications

Mica the mineral flakes off in fine sheets.
CREDIT
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nanta-aom1.jpg
Mica the mineral flakes off in fine sheets. CREDIT Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nanta-aom1.jpg

Abstract:
Many seashells, minerals, and semiconductor nanomaterials are made up of smaller crystals, which are assembled together like the pieces of a puzzle. Now, researchers have measured the forces that cause the crystals to assemble, revealing an orchestra of competing factors that researchers might be able to control.

New insights into nanocrystal growth in liquid: Understanding process that creates complex crystals important for energy applications

Richland, WA | Posted on September 14th, 2017

The work has a variety of implications in both discovery and applied science. In addition to providing insights into the formation of minerals and semiconductor nanomaterials, it might also help scientists understand soil as it expands and contracts through wetting and drying cycles. In the applied realm, researchers might use the principles to develop new materials with unique properties for energy needs.

The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July, describe how the arrangement of the atoms in the crystals creates forces that pull them together and align them for docking. The study reveals how the attraction becomes stronger or weaker as water is heated or salt is added, both of which are common processes in the natural world.

The multinational team, led by chemists Dongsheng Li and Jaehun Chun from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, explored the attractive forces between two crystal particles made from mica. A flaky mineral that is commonly used in electrical insulation, this silicon-based mineral is well-studied and easy to work with because it chips off in flat pieces with nearly-perfect crystal surfaces.

Forces and faces

Crystallization often occurs through assembly of multi-faceted building blocks: some faces on these smaller crystals line up better with others, like Lego blocks do. Li and Chun have been studying a specific crystallization process called oriented attachment. Among other distinguishing characteristics, oriented attachment occurs when smaller subunits of fledgling crystals align their best matching faces before clicking together.

The process creates various nonlinear forms: nanowires with branches, lattices that look like complicated honeycombs, and tetrapods -- tiny structures that look like four-armed toy jacks. The molecular forces that contribute to this self-assembly are not well understood.

Molecular forces that come into play can attract or repel the tiny crystal building blocks to or from each other. These include a variety of textbook forces such as van der Waals, hydrogen bonding, and electrostatic, among others.

To explore the forces, Li, Chun and colleagues milled flat faces on tiny slabs of mica and put them on a device that measures the attraction between two pieces. Then they measured the attraction while twisting the faces relative to each other. The experiment allowed the mica to be bathed in a liquid that includes different salts, letting them test real-world scenarios.

The difference in this work was the liquid setup. Similar experiments by other researchers have been done dry under vacuum; in this work, the liquid created conditions that better simulate how real crystals form in nature and in large industrial methods. The team performed some of these experiments at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at PNNL.

Twist and salt

One of the first things the team found was that the attraction between two pieces of mica rose and fell as the faces twisted relative to each other, like when trying to make a sandwich out of two flat refrigerator magnets (go on, try it). In fact, the attraction rose and fell every 60 degrees, corresponding with the internal architecture of the mineral, which is almost hexagonal like a honeycomb cell.

Although other researchers more than a decade ago had predicted this cyclical attraction would happen, this is the first time scientists had measured the forces. Knowing the strength of the forces is key to manipulating crystallization in a research or industrial setting.

But other things were abuzz in the mica face-off as well. Between the two surfaces, the liquid environment housed electrically charged ions from salts, normal elements found during crystallization in nature. The water and the ions formed a somewhat stable layer between the surfaces that partly kept them separated. And as they moved toward each other, the two mica surfaces paused there, balanced between molecular attraction and repulsion by water and ions.

The team also found they could manipulate the strength of that attraction by changing the type of ions, their concentration, and the temperature. Different types of ions and their concentrations changed electrostatic repulsion between the mica surfaces. The size of the ions and how many charges they carried also created more or less space within the meddling layer.

Lastly, higher temperatures increased the strength of the attraction, contrary to how temperature behaves in simpler, less complex scenarios. The researchers built a model of the competing forces that included van der Waals, electrostatic, and hydration forces.

In the future, the researchers say, the principles gleaned from this study can be applied to other materials, which would be calculated for the material of interest. For example, manipulating the attraction might allow researchers to custom-build crystals of desired sizes and shapes and with unique properties. Overall, the work provides insights into crystal growth through nanoparticle assembly in synthetic, biological, and geochemical environments.

###

This work was supported by DOE's Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, PNNL and China's Xi'an Jiaotong University.

####

About Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. Its integrated computational and experimental resources enable researchers to realize important scientific insights and create new technologies. Follow EMSL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed and operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Mary Beckman

509-375-3688

Copyright © Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Reference: Dongsheng Li, Jaehun Chun, Dongdong Xiao, Weijiang Zhou, Huacheng Cai, Lei Zhang, Kevin M. Rosso, Christopher J. Mundy, Gregory K. Schenter, James J. De Yoreo. Trends in mica-mica adhesion reflect the influence of molecular details on long-range dispersion forces underlying aggregation and coalignment, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A Early Edition July 18, 2017, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1621186114.

Related News Press

Laboratories

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

News and information

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

New Method Uses DNA, Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Make Optically Active Structures: Technique could lead to new classes of materials that can bend light, such as for those used in cloaking devices January 18th, 2018

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Announces Pricing of Underwritten Public Offering of Common Stock January 18th, 2018

Leti to Demo New Curving Technology at Photonics West that Improves Performance of Optical Components January 18th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

New Method Uses DNA, Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Make Optically Active Structures: Technique could lead to new classes of materials that can bend light, such as for those used in cloaking devices January 18th, 2018

Ultra-thin memory storage device paves way for more powerful computing January 17th, 2018

'Gyroscope' molecules form crystal that's both solid and full of motion: New type of molecular machine designed by UCLA researchers could have wide-ranging applications in technology and science January 16th, 2018

Possible Futures

New Method Uses DNA, Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Make Optically Active Structures: Technique could lead to new classes of materials that can bend light, such as for those used in cloaking devices January 18th, 2018

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Announces Pricing of Underwritten Public Offering of Common Stock January 18th, 2018

Leti to Demo New Curving Technology at Photonics West that Improves Performance of Optical Components January 18th, 2018

Nanowrinkles could save billions in shipping and aquaculture Surfaces inspired by carnivorous plants delay degradation by marine fouling January 17th, 2018

Chip Technology

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

Leti to Demo New Curving Technology at Photonics West that Improves Performance of Optical Components January 18th, 2018

Ultra-thin memory storage device paves way for more powerful computing January 17th, 2018

'Gyroscope' molecules form crystal that's both solid and full of motion: New type of molecular machine designed by UCLA researchers could have wide-ranging applications in technology and science January 16th, 2018

Discoveries

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

New Method Uses DNA, Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Make Optically Active Structures: Technique could lead to new classes of materials that can bend light, such as for those used in cloaking devices January 18th, 2018

Nanowrinkles could save billions in shipping and aquaculture Surfaces inspired by carnivorous plants delay degradation by marine fouling January 17th, 2018

Ultrathin black phosphorus for solar-driven hydrogen economy: Osaka University researchers use sunlight to make hydrogen with a new nanostructured catalyst based on nanosheets of black phosphorus and bismuth vanadate January 17th, 2018

Materials/Metamaterials

Ultrathin black phosphorus for solar-driven hydrogen economy: Osaka University researchers use sunlight to make hydrogen with a new nanostructured catalyst based on nanosheets of black phosphorus and bismuth vanadate January 17th, 2018

Nanotube fibers in a jiffy: Rice University lab makes short nanotube samples by hand to dramatically cut production time January 11th, 2018

New oxide and semiconductor combination builds new device potential: Researchers integrated oxide two-dimensional electron gases with gallium arsenide and paved the way toward new opto-electrical devices January 10th, 2018

Ultrafine fibers have exceptional strength: New technique developed at MIT could produce strong, resilient nanofibers for many applications January 5th, 2018

Announcements

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

New Method Uses DNA, Nanoparticles and Top-Down Lithography to Make Optically Active Structures: Technique could lead to new classes of materials that can bend light, such as for those used in cloaking devices January 18th, 2018

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Announces Pricing of Underwritten Public Offering of Common Stock January 18th, 2018

Leti to Demo New Curving Technology at Photonics West that Improves Performance of Optical Components January 18th, 2018

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors January 20th, 2018

Nanowrinkles could save billions in shipping and aquaculture Surfaces inspired by carnivorous plants delay degradation by marine fouling January 17th, 2018

Ultrathin black phosphorus for solar-driven hydrogen economy: Osaka University researchers use sunlight to make hydrogen with a new nanostructured catalyst based on nanosheets of black phosphorus and bismuth vanadate January 17th, 2018

Ultra-thin optical fibers offer new way to 3-D print microstructures: Novel approach lays groundwork for using 3-D printing to repair tissue in the body January 17th, 2018

Research partnerships

Ultra-thin memory storage device paves way for more powerful computing January 17th, 2018

New catalyst for hydrogen production is a step toward clean fuel: Carbon-based nanocomposite with embedded metal ions yields impressive performance as catalyst for electrolysis of water to generate hydrogen January 16th, 2018

New era in high field superconducting magnets opening new frontiers in science, nanotechnology and materials discovery January 9th, 2018

Touchy nanotubes work better when clean: Rice, Swansea scientists show that decontaminating nanotubes can simplify nanoscale devices January 4th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project