Scientists have created the first-ever nanomaterials weaved at the atomic and molecular level at Berkeley Lab.
Nano-materials can be made in many ways, but who would have thought about traditional weaving as a method. The most tried and tested technique of making textiles was an unheard of strategy to make nano-materials.
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But now even this fantasy has become a reality. An international team of researchers from the University of California (Berkley) and the Berkley Lab have managed to weave the first 3D covalent organic frameworks (COFs). These come from helical organic threads.
This international team of researchers led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley.
"We have taken the art of weaving into the atomic and molecular level, giving us a powerful new way of manipulating matter with incredible precision in order to achieve unique and valuable mechanical properties," says Omar Yaghi, a chemist who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley's Chemistry Department, and is the co-director of the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute (Kavli-ENSI).
The woven materials show various improvements over other materials. For one thing, their structural flexibility, resilient nature and reversibility are unmatched.
All erstwhile COFs, which were valued due to their ability to trap carbon dioxide and convert it into precious chemical products, have been outdone this time around. The art of weaving has been taken down to the molecular and atomic level.
This lends human beings a potent method of handling matter on a fundamental basis. And the process can be accomplished with a high degree of fine-tuning. One-of-a-kind mechanical features can now be created in a number of material bases.
Weaving is an operation that is a novelty in biochemistry. But now the experts have found out ways of weaving extended organic surfaces that have the texture of natural substances. The designing of these nano-materials may be three-dimensional or two-dimensional.
"Weaving in chemistry has been long sought after and is unknown in biology," Yaghi says. "However, we have found a way of weaving organic threads that enables us to design and make complex two- and three-dimensional organic extended structures."
By making COFs and their cousin materials, which are known as MOFs, scientists plan to make the future an exciting time of discovery and invention. MOFs are porous three-dimensional crystals.
They have large internal surface areas which can absorb large molecules. The stitchwork takes place in such a manner that the chemical bonds between the particles are pretty strong.
This is just the beginning of what can only be termed as reticular chemistry. In this the frameworks are buried in catalysts that then accomplish various feats of engineering.
Carbon dioxide can be reduced to carbon monoxide. In the experiment that the researchers engaged in, a copper template had threads of phenanthroline brought into its context.
The immine-based framework that got generated was called COF-505. Changes in the elasticity of this nano-material were made possible too. Thus the creation of molecular clothes is at its very dawn of development in what can be termed post-historical times.
The nano-materials that are created may be tough but they also yield under pressure. This is their unique quality and thus they will always be prized for the special nature they possess.
"Our weaving technique allows long threads of covalently linked molecules to cross at regular intervals," Yaghi says.
"These crossings serve as points of registry, so that the threads have many degrees of freedom to move away from and back to such points without collapsing the overall structure, a boon to making materials with exceptional mechanical properties and dynamics."
This study has been published in the journal Science. Yaghi is the corresponding author of a paper titled "Weaving of organic threads into a crystalline covalent organic framework."
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The lead authors of this study are Yuzhong Liu, Yanhang Ma and Yingbo Zhao. Other co-authors are Xixi Sun, Felipe Gándara, Hiroyasu Furukawa, Zheng Liu, Hanyu Zhu, Chenhui Zhu, Kazutomo Suenaga, Peter Oleynikov, Ahmad Alshammari, Xiang Zhang and Osamu Terasaki.