Researcher Laura Rossi and her team from TU Delft have found a new way to create synthetic materials from tiny glass particles – so-called colloids. Together with their colleagues from Queen’s University and the University of Amsterdam, they showed that they can simply use the shape of these colloids to create interesting building blocks for new materials, regardless of the other properties of the colloidal particles. Rossi: “It’s amazing because it opens up a whole new way of thinking about materials design.” Their work is published in Advances in science this Friday.
Colloids are tiny particles ranging in size from a few nanometers to a few microns. They consist of a set of molecules and may have different properties depending on the material from which they are made. “Under certain circumstances, colloids can behave like atoms and molecules, but their interaction is less strong,” explains Rossi. “This makes them promising building blocks for new materials, such as interactive materials that can adapt their properties to the environment.”
A new way of decorating materials
When left alone, the cubic colloids from this study, which are made of glass, will come together in simple structures such as distorted cubic and hexagonal lattices. But instead of immediately moving from the building block to the final structure, the researchers took small groups of colloids and combined them into larger building blocks. When they assembled these colloidal clumps, they eventually obtained a different final structure with different material properties than the assembled structure itself. “In terms of chemistry, we always focus on how we can produce a certain type of colloid,” Rossi says. “In this study, we shifted our focus to how we can use colloids that are already available to make interesting building blocks?”
A step forward
According to Rossi and her co-worker Greg van Anders, one of the ultimate goals of their research community is to develop complex colloidal structures on demand. “What we’ve found here is very important, because for possible applications we need procedures that can be extended, which will be difficult to achieve with most of the approaches currently available.” The basic ability to pre-assemble the same pieces from different building blocks and get them to create the same structure or take the same building block and pre-assemble different pieces that create different structures are really the main “chess moves” for engineering complex structures, ”adds van Anders.
Although Rossi is studying fundamental aspects rather than the application of materials design, she can anticipate possible applications for this particular work: “We found that the density of the structure we prepared was much lower than the density of the structure you prepared. get by using the initial building blocks. So you can think of strong but lightweight materials to transport. ”
After Rossi’s team built colloid clusters in the lab, they relied on Greg van Anders ’team from Queen’s University to build the final structure from pre-assembled clusters using computer simulations. “With such projects, it’s great to be able to team up with others who can run a simulation, not only to get a deep understanding of what’s going on, but also to test the chances of a successful lab experiment,” Rossi said. . . “And in this case, we got very convincing results, that we understood the design process well and that the resulting material could be useful.”
The next step will be to build the final structure from the colloid groups in the laboratory. “Seeing these results, I’m sure it can be done,” Rossi says. “It would be great to have a physical version of this stuff and hold it in your hand.”
Source of history: