Chemists are cooking up a brand new type of nanomaterial

Chemists are cooking up a brand new type of nanomaterial

Graphic abstract. Credit: The chemistry of nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41557-022-01106-9

There’s a new nanomaterial on the block. Chemists at the University of Oregon have found a way to make carbon-based molecules with a unique structural feature: interconnected rings.


Like other nanomaterials, these interconnected molecules have interesting properties that can be “tuned” by changing their size and chemical composition. This makes them potentially useful for a number of applications, such as specialized sensors and new types of electronics.

“It’s a new topology for carbon nanomaterials, and we’re finding new properties that we haven’t been able to see before,” said James May, a graduate student in the lab of chemistry professor Ramesh Jasti and first author of the paper. May and colleagues report their findings in a paper published in The chemistry of nature.

Although other labs have also synthesized different types of interconnected molecules, the Jasti lab’s method allows carbon nanotube-like structures to be linked together. It will allow chemists to make many different variations on the structure and more fully explore the properties of new materials.

“You can create structures that you can’t do with other methods,” Jasti said.

For example, his team used the approach to make three interconnected rings, as well as a rod-like structure with multiple rings that can slide up and down. The advance stemmed from Jasti’s work on nanohoops, rings of carbon atoms that are a scaled-down variation of long, thin carbon nanotubes.

“Because we’re able to make these circular structures at will, I started thinking, could you make things that just don’t exist in nature?” Jasti said. “This is where the idea of ​​interconnected rings came from.”

Finding a series of chemical reactions that could generate the intricate ring structures took a creative approach. Their solution depends on adding a strategically placed metal atom to a ring. That metal starts the chemical reaction to make the second ring, forcing it to happen inside the first ring. Once the reaction takes place, the second ring is trapped, locked together with the first ring.

“We’re able to make chemistry happen in a space where it might never happen,” May said.

Interlocked molecules behave differently if their size changes, or if the rings are arranged differently, or if different chemical elements are thrown into the mix. By making nanoscale adjustments, scientists could tweak the material to do exactly what they want it to do. Because the class of materials is so new, scientists are still discovering all the possibilities.

But Jasti’s team is particularly interested in their potential as sensors, where a change in the rings’ position in response to a certain chemical could lead to a fluorescent glow.

They could also be used to create flexible electronics or dynamic biomedical materials.

“Typical carbon nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes, graphene or even diamond are static materials,” he said. “Here, we’ve created new types of carbon nanomaterials that retain their fascinating electrical and optical properties, but now have the ability to do things like rotate, compress, or stretch.”

More information:
James H. May et al., Active Templating Strategy for the Preparation of π-Conjugated Interlinked Nanocarbons, The chemistry of nature (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41557-022-01106-9

Provided by the University of Oregon

Citation: Chemists Cook Brand New Kind of Nanomaterial (2023, January 13) Retrieved January 14, 2023, from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-chemists-cook-brand-new-kind-nanomaterial.html

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