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December 01, 2005

Targeted self-assembly of molecules

Targeted self-assembly could vastly expand the range of structures that could be created from nano-particles.

Torquato and colleagues have published a paper in the Nov. 25 issue of Physical Review Letters, the leading physics journal, outlining a mathematical approach that would enable them to produce desired configurations of nanoparticles by manipulating the manner in which the particles interact with one another. So far Torquato and his colleagues have demonstrated their concept only theoretically, with computer modeling. They optimized what would normally self-assemble into a pattern called a triangular lattice but changed it to a honeycome lattice. The honeycomb lattice is the two-dimensional analog to the three-dimensional diamond lattice, the creation of which is somewhat of a holy grail in nanotechnology.

Torquato and his colleagues hope that their efforts will be replicated in the laboratory using particles called colloids, which have unique properties that make them ideal candidates to test out the theory. Paul Chaikin, a professor of physics at New York University, said he is planning to do laboratory experiments based on the work.

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