New processes that allow nanoparticles to assemble themselves into designer materials could solve some of today's technology challenges. Alex Travesset, Associate Professor at Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory, writes in the Journal Science (Oct. 14 issue) that the controlled self-assembly of nanoparticles could help researchers create new materials with unique electrical, optical, mechanical or transport properties
"Nanoparticle self-assembly has entered the LEGO era," Travesset said. "You can really work with nanoparticles in the same way you can work with LEGOs. This represents a breakthrough in the way we can manipulate matter. Really revolutionary applications will come".
Let's remind how Dr Ralph Merkle presents in his blog the new nanotechnologies:
Manufactured products are made from atoms. The properties of those products depend on how those atoms are arranged.
If we rearrange the atoms in coal we can make diamond..
If we rearrange the atoms in sand (and add a few other trace elements) we can make computer chips.
If we rearrange the atoms in dirt, water and air we can make potatoes..
Todays manufacturing methods are very crude at the molecular level. Casting, grinding, milling and even lithography move atoms in great thundering statistical herds. It's like trying to make things out of LEGO blocks with boxing gloves on your hands. Yes, you can push the LEGO blocks into great heaps and pile them up, but you can't really snap them together the way you'd like.