Research Area #2: Matrix-Controlled Particle Assembly

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Image: By embedding particles in a polymer medium that is solid at room temperature, the particles will only be mobile when the polymer chains are made mobile (e.g. by heating). Upon removal of heat, the polymer matrix will re-solidify, thereby trapping and stabilizing the assembled particles for property measurement or incorporation into device architectures.

In order for assemblies of particles to be useful as materials, it is necessary for them to be physically stable in the desired environment of application. An important aspect of transitioning self-assembly approaches from benchtop curiosities to useful materials synthesis schemes is therefore developing a means of stabilizing these architectures either during or post-synthesis.

In this research area, our group replaces the traditional liquid solvents used to disperse particles during self-assembly with polymer melts – this provides a means to enhance the stability of the assembled structures without the need for post-synthetic modifications of the assembled structures. Additionally, we aim to make the polymer matrix a participatory component of the assembly process, enabling the fabrication of novel structures previously unobtainable with other methods.

The knowledge gained from this work will prove useful not only in understanding the basic concepts of how assembly occurs in different media, but also as an enabling technology for stabilizing useful structures, and as a fundamentally new tool for controlling assembly processes.

Key Concepts: Nanotechnology, Self-Assembly, Structure/Property Relationships, Materials Processing
Potential Applications: Energy Storage, Plasmonically Active Materials, Catalysis

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