Scientists unveil first method for controlling the growth of metal crystals

August 6th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


Prof Peter Sadler

Prof. Peter Sadler

Researchers at the University of Warwick developed the first method for controlling the growth of metal crystals from single atoms for the creation of precise components for use in nanotechnology. According to Prof. Peter Sadler, who heads the project, the breakthrough with nanocrystallometry allows for observation and direct control of the nano-world in motion.

Using a doped-graphene matrix to slow down and then trap atoms of the precious metal osmium, the researchers were able to control and quantify the growth of metal-crystals. When the trapped atoms come into contact with further osmium atoms they bind together, eventually growing into 3D metal-crystals. Compared to existing methods of crystal growth, nanocrystallometry offers a significant improvement in the economic and efficient manufacture of precision nanoscopic objects.

The team’s technique could be a breakthrough in terms of offering the capability for micromanipulation and derivatisation of a graphene surface, with multiple commercial opportunities arising in the future. A patent application for the method has been submitted. Tailoring nanoscopic objects is of importance for the production of the materials of the future. Until now the formation of metal nanocrystals could not be controlled with precision at the level of individual atoms, under mild and accessible conditions.

The researchers claim that the new method possesses a range of potential uses, such as building precise, atomic-level electronic circuits and new nano-information storage devices. The method also has significant potential for use in the biosensing of drugs, DNA and gases, as well for creating unique nano-patterns on surfaces for security labelling and sealing confidential documents. Nanocrystallometry is also an innovative method for producing new metal nano-alloys, and many combinations can be envisaged. They may have very unusual and as yet unexplored properties.

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