1. Chemists at the University of Connecticut have found a way to increase the luminescence efficiency of single-walled carbon nanotubes by 40 fold, a discovery that could have significant applications in medical imaging and other areas.
The best scientists have been able to do with solution-suspended carbon nanotubes was to raise their luminescence efficiency to about one-half of one percent, which is extremely low compared to other materials, such as quantum dots and quantum rods.
By wrapping a chemical ‘sleeve’ around a single-walled carbon nanotube, Papadimitrakopoulos and his research team were able to reduce exterior defects caused by chemically absorbed oxygen molecules.
This process can best be explained by imagining sliding a small tube into a slightly larger diameter tube, Papadimitrakopoulos says. In order for this to happen, all deposits or protrusions on the smaller tube have to be removed before the tube is allowed to slip into the slightly larger diameter tube. What is most fascinating with carbon nanotubes however, Papadimitrakopoulos says, is the fact that in this case the larger tube is not as rigid as the first tube (i.e. carbon nanotube) but is rather formed by a chemical “sleeve” comprised of a synthetic derivative of flavin (an analog of vitamin B2) that adsorbs and self organizes onto a conformal tube. Papadimitrakopoulos claims that this process of self-assembly is unique in that it not only forms a new structure but also actively “cleans” the surface of the underlying nanotube. It is that active cleaning of the nanotube surface that allows the nanotube to achieve luminescence efficiency to as high as 20 percent.
Research on nanomembranes and graphene sheets represents the “third wave” of work on nanomaterials, following earlier studies of nanoparticles/fullerenes and, somewhat later, nanowires/nanotubes. Inorganic semiconductor nanomembranes are particularly appealing due to their materials diversity, the ease with which they can be grown with high quality over large areas, and the ability to exploit them in unique, high-performance electronic and optoelectronic systems. The mechanics of such nanomembranes and the coupling of strain to their electronic properties are topics of considerable current interest. A new paper by the Lagally group in this issue combines single-crystalline silicon nanomembranes with chemical vapor deposition techniques to form “mechano-electronic” superlattices whose properties could lead to unusual classes of electronic devices
Cluster-assembled materials offer the ability to tune component properties, lattice parameters, and thus coupling of physical properties through the careful selection and assembly of building blocks. Multi-atom clusters have been found to exhibit physical properties beyond those available from the standard elements in the periodic table; classification of the properties of such clusters effectively enables expansion of the periodic table to a third dimension. Using clusters as superatomic building blocks for hierarchically assembled materials allows these properties to be incorporated into designer materials with tailored properties. Cluster-assembled materials are currently being explored and methods developed to control their design and function. Here, we discuss examples of building block syntheses, assembly strategies, and property control achieved to date.