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Paving the way for precise, atomic-level electronic circuits and new nano-information storage devices, researchers at the University of Warwick have unveiled the first method for controlling the growth of metal crystals.

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Controlling the growth of metal-crystals from single atoms
In a breakthrough that allows for observation and direct control of the nano-world in motion, researchers at the University of Warwick have developed a method, called Nanocrystallometry, that allows for the creation of precise components for use in nanotechnology.

The method uses a doped-graphene matrix to slow down and then trap atoms of the precious metal osmium whereby 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.

Tailoring nanoscopic objects is of enormous importance for the production of the materials of the future, the researchers stressed, and until now the formation of metal nanocrystals, which are essential to those future materials, could not be controlled with precision at the level of individual atoms, under mild and accessible conditions.

Compared to existing methods of crystal growth nanocrystallometry offers a significant improvement in the economic and efficient manufacture of precision nanoscopic objects.

The researchers said the new method possesses a range of potential uses including building precise, atomic-level electronic circuits and new nano-information storage devices, as well as 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, they added.

(Source: The University of Warwick)

(Source: The University of Warwick)