Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Making quantum puddles: Physicists discover how to create the thinnest liquid films ever

In a vacuum, a suspended sheet of one-atom-thick graphene (brown lattice) could be manipulated to create a liquid film (atoms in dark blue) that stops growing at a thickness between 3 and 50 nanometers. By stretching the graphene, doping it with other atoms, or applying a weak electrical field nearby, the University of Vermont researchers who made the discovery have evidence that the number of atoms in an ultra-thin film can be controlled.
CREDIT
courtesy Adrian Del Maestro et al.
In a vacuum, a suspended sheet of one-atom-thick graphene (brown lattice) could be manipulated to create a liquid film (atoms in dark blue) that stops growing at a thickness between 3 and 50 nanometers. By stretching the graphene, doping it with other atoms, or applying a weak electrical field nearby, the University of Vermont researchers who made the discovery have evidence that the number of atoms in an ultra-thin film can be controlled. CREDIT courtesy Adrian Del Maestro et al.

Abstract:
A team of physicists at the University of Vermont have discovered a fundamentally new way surfaces can get wet. Their study may allow scientists to create the thinnest films of liquid ever made--and engineer a new class of surface coatings and lubricants just a few atoms thick.

Making quantum puddles: Physicists discover how to create the thinnest liquid films ever

Burlington, VT | Posted on June 13th, 2018

"We've learned what controls the thickness of ultra-thin films grown on graphene," says Sanghita Sengupta, a doctoral student at UVM and the lead author on the new study. "And we have a good sense now of what conditions--like knobs you can turn--will change how many layers of atoms will form in different liquids."

The results were published June 8 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

A THIRD WAY

To understand the new physics, imagine what happens when rain falls on your new iPhone: it forms beads on the screen. They're easy to shake off. Now imagine your bathroom after a long shower: the whole mirror may be covered with a thin layer of water. "These are two extreme examples of the physics of wetting," says UVM physicist Adrian Del Maestro, a co-author on the new study. "If interactions inside the liquid are stronger than those between the liquid and surface, the liquid atoms stick together, forming separate droplets. In the opposite case, the strong pull of the surface causes the liquid to spread, forming a thin film."

More than 50 years ago, physicists speculated about a third possibility--a strange phenomena called "critical wetting" where atoms of liquid would start to form a film on a surface, but then would stop building up when they were just a few atoms thick. These scientists in the 1950s, including the famed Soviet physicist Evgeny Lifshitz, weren't sure if critical wetting was real, and they certainly didn't think it would ever be able to be seen in the laboratory.

Then, in 2010, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to two Russian scientists for their creation of a bizarre form of carbon called graphene. It's a honeycombed sheet of carbon just one atom thick. It's the strongest material in the world and has many quirky qualities that materials scientists have been exploring ever since.

Graphene turns out to be the "ideal surface to test for critical wetting," says Del Maestro--and with it the Vermont team has now demonstrated mathematically that critical wetting is real.

HARNESSING VAN DER WAALS FORCE

The scientists explored how three light gases--hydrogen, helium and nitrogen--would behave near graphene. In a vacuum and other conditions, they calculated that a liquid layer of these gases will start to form on the one-atom-thick sheet of graphene. But then the film stops growing when "it is ten or twenty atoms thick," says Valeri Kotov, an expert on graphene in UVM's Department of Physics and the senior author on the study.

The explanation can be found in quantum mechanics. Though a neutral atom or molecule--like the light gases studied by the UVM team--has no overall electric charge, the electrons constantly circling the far-off nucleus (OK, "far-off" only from the scale of an electron) form momentary imbalances on one side of the atom or another. These shifts in electron density give rise to one of the pervasive but weak powers in the universe: Van der Waals force. The attraction it creates between atoms only extends a short distance.

Because of the outlandish, perfectly flat geometry of the graphene, there is no electrostatic charge or chemical bond to hold the liquid, leaving the puny van der Waals force to do all the heavy lifting. Which is why the liquid attached to the graphene stops attracting additional atoms out of the vapor when the film has grown to be only a few atoms away from the surface. In comparison, even the thinnest layer of water on your bathroom mirror--which is formed by many much more powerful forces than just the quantum-scale effects of van der Waals force--would be "in the neighborhood of 109 atoms thick," says Del Maestro; that's 1,000,000,000 atoms thick.

APPLIED WETNESS

Engineering a surface where this kind of weak force can be observed has proven very challenging. But the explosion of scientific interest in graphene has allowed the UVM scientists to conclude that critical wetting seems to be a universal phenomenon in the numerous forms of graphene now being created and across the growing family of other two-dimensional materials.

The scientists' models show that, in a vacuum, a suspended sheet of graphene (above) could be manipulated to create a liquid film (atoms in blue, above) that stops growing at a thickness of a much as 50 nanometers, down to a thickness of just three nanometers. "What's important is that we can tune this thickness," says Sengupta. By stretching the graphene, doping it with other atoms, or applying a weak electrical field nearby, the researchers have evidence that the number of atoms in an ultra-thin film can be controlled.

The mechanical adjustment of the graphene could allow real-time changes in the thickness of the liquid film. It might be a bit like turning a "quantum-sized knob," says Nathan Nichols--another UVM doctoral student who worked on the new study--on the outside of an atomic-scale machine in order to change the surface coating on moving parts inside.

Now this team of theoretical physicists--"I'm starting to call what I do dielectric engineering," says Sengupta--is looking for a team of experimental physicists to test their discovery in the lab.

Much of the initial promise of graphene as an industrial product has not yet been realized. Part of the reason why is that many of its special properties--like being a remarkably efficient conductor--go away when thick layers of other materials are stuck to it. But with the control of critical wetting, engineers might be able to customize nanoscale coatings which wouldn't blot out the desired properties of graphene, but could, says Adrian Del Maestro, offer lubrication and protection of "next-generation wearable electronics and displays."

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Joshua Brown

802-656-3039

Copyright © University of Vermont

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

RELATED JOURNAL ARTICLE:

Related News Press

News and information

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizard® AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Executives Explore Key Megatrends and Innovations in MEMS, Sensors, Imaging Tech at SEMI-MSIG European Summits: Speakers to share developments in smart automotive, smart cities, smart industrial, biomedical, consumer and IoT, September 19-21, 2018 in Grenoble, France June 19th, 2018

Quantum Physics

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Detecting the birth and death of a phonon June 7th, 2018

Quantum Interference May Be Key to Smaller Insulators: Breakthrough could jumpstart further miniaturization of transistors June 6th, 2018

Graphene/ Graphite

Graphene carpets: So neurons communicate better: Research by SISSA reveals that graphene can strengthen neuronal activity, confirming the unique properties of this nanomaterial. The study has been published on Nature Nanotechnology June 13th, 2018

Unzipping graphene nanotubes into nanoribbons: New study shows elegant mathematical solution to understand how the flow of electrons changes when carbon nanotubes turn into zigzag nanoribbons June 6th, 2018

Graphene-based desiccant offers super dry solution to moisture control June 1st, 2018

2 Dimensional Materials

Unzipping graphene nanotubes into nanoribbons: New study shows elegant mathematical solution to understand how the flow of electrons changes when carbon nanotubes turn into zigzag nanoribbons June 6th, 2018

Building nanomaterials for next-generation computing: Scientists recently developed a blueprint to fabricate new nanoheterostructures using 2D materials June 1st, 2018

Display technology/LEDs/SS Lighting/OLEDs

Getting electrons to move in a semiconductor: Gallium oxide shows high electron mobility, making it promising for better and cheaper devices April 24th, 2018

Ancient paper art, kirigami, poised to improve smart clothing: New research shows how paper-cutting can make ultra strong, stretchable electronics April 3rd, 2018

Atomically thin light-emitting device opens the possibility for 'invisible' displays March 26th, 2018

Nanostructures made of previously impossible material: How do you combine different elements in a crystal? At TU Wien, a method has now been developed for incorporating previously unattainably high proportions of foreign atoms into crystals March 9th, 2018

Wearable electronics

Ancient paper art, kirigami, poised to improve smart clothing: New research shows how paper-cutting can make ultra strong, stretchable electronics April 3rd, 2018

NTU scientists create customizable, fabric-like power source for wearable electronics January 30th, 2018

Possible Futures

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizard® AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Executives Explore Key Megatrends and Innovations in MEMS, Sensors, Imaging Tech at SEMI-MSIG European Summits: Speakers to share developments in smart automotive, smart cities, smart industrial, biomedical, consumer and IoT, September 19-21, 2018 in Grenoble, France June 19th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Chip Technology

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Leti Presenting Strategic Vision and Hosting a Workshop at SEMICON West: “From Electrons to Photons” Leti Workshop and CEO Media Briefing Set for Tuesday, July 10 in W Hotel, San Francisco June 12th, 2018

Nanometrics Updates Time of Webcast at Stifel 2018 Cross Sector Insight Conference June 12th, 2018

Does nanoconfinement affect the interaction between two materials placed in contact? It ispossible to estimate how nanoconfinement affects the number of contacts formed by two materials placed in intimate contact and, hence, the interfacial interactions June 7th, 2018

Discoveries

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Materials/Metamaterials

Nickel ferrite promotes capacity and cycle stability of lithium-sulfur battery June 13th, 2018

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Nano-saturn: Supramolecular complex formation: Anthracene macrocycle and C60 fullerene June 8th, 2018

FEFU scientists have created a new type of optical ceramic material June 8th, 2018

Announcements

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizard® AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Executives Explore Key Megatrends and Innovations in MEMS, Sensors, Imaging Tech at SEMI-MSIG European Summits: Speakers to share developments in smart automotive, smart cities, smart industrial, biomedical, consumer and IoT, September 19-21, 2018 in Grenoble, France June 19th, 2018

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

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Water

Engineered polymer membranes could be new option for water treatment May 6th, 2018

Rice U.'s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air: NSF-funded NEWT Center aims for catalytic converter for nitrate-polluted water January 5th, 2018

A new way to mix oil and water: Condensation-based method developed at MIT could create stable nanoscale emulsions November 8th, 2017

Magnetized viruses attack harmful bacteria: Rice, China team uses phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems August 2nd, 2017

Quantum nanoscience

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Detecting the birth and death of a phonon June 7th, 2018

Quantum Interference May Be Key to Smaller Insulators: Breakthrough could jumpstart further miniaturization of transistors June 6th, 2018

Nanoscale measurements 100x more precise, thanks to improved two-photon technique May 8th, 2018

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



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project