Self-assembly is one of the most practical
ways to construct things at the molecular scale.
Researchers from the University of Toronto have found a way to
coax a material containing microscopic pores to assemble from two very
different types of molecules.
The material could be used as packaging material for microscopic
electronics, to store gases, and to deliver tiny amounts of drugs to very
specific places, according to the researchers.
The material is made from a mix of the inorganic silica material
alkoxysilyl and dendrimers, which are branched organic molecules that
can be used to make templates for complicated porous structures. Organic
molecules contain carbon; inorganic molecules do not.
The researchers found a way to use the self-assembling dendrimers
to direct the inorganic molecules into a useful structure. The silica
molecules attach to the outermost branches of the dendrimers, which link
up to form a layer around cylindrical templates. The researchers made
materials with 8.2-nanometers and 9.1-nanometers diameter regularly-spaced
The material could be used practically in five to ten years, according
to the researchers. The work appeared in the November 26 issue of Science.
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