Research Area #1: Self-Assembling Nanocomposite Tectons (NCTs)


Grafting polymer chains with supramolecular recognition groups to the surface of nanoparticles allows the particles to bind to one another in a programmable manner, thereby generating an ordered lattice of particles linked by polymer chains. One the right is example SAXS data of NCTs arranged in a BCC superlattice with varying nanoparticle size, polymer length, and lattice parameter and a cartoon depiction of the geometric arrangement of the particles.

Nanocomposites enable the integration of nanoscale phenomena into functional, macroscopic materials by carefully controlling the composition and spatial configuration of the constituent components. Self-assembly of smaller building blocks (tectons) is a powerful method for synthesizing nanocomposites because it can precisely dictate nanoscale structure in a scalable manner. Our group has developed a set of building blocks, Nanocomposite Tectons (NCTs), which are themselves organic/inorganic nanocomposites capable of self-assembling into larger, ordered structures. Each NCT consists of an inorganic nanoparticle grafted with a dense layer of polymer chains that terminate in molecular recognition units capable of programmed supramolecular bonding.

The modular nature of NCTs provides multiple design handles to alter the composition, size, and thermodynamics of assembly to introduce new geometric arrangements and properties of the resulting material. As a result, these structures have potential application in the areas of plasmonics and photonics, heterogeneous catalysis,  and energy storage.

Key Concepts: Nanotechnology, Self-Assembly, Soft Matter, Inorganic Nanoparticles, Polymer Chemistry, Photonic/Plasmonic/Mechanical Properties
Potential Applications: Catalysis, Plasmonic/Photonic Materials, Energy Storage, Electronic Device Fabrication

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