Bottom-up nanofabrication also known as self-assembly approach is opening up routes for new methodologies with characteristics tuned to the nanoscale which is evident from designing of new biomaterials to novel photonic devices.
However, to fully understand the capability of the new materials, experts need to view into their tiny spaces for sway in the design and fabrication in order to enable desired properties of the materials.
For the first time, researchers at Columbia University and Brookhaven National Laboratory under the U.S. Department of Energy have overcome the complex challenge of imaging the inner structure of a novel material. Structurally, the material is self-assembled from nanoparticles with resolution of seven nanometer which is about 1/100,000 of width of human hair.
A paper published in Science demonstrates the power of the high-resolution X-ray imaging technique to display the inner structure of the nanomaterial.
Using DNA as a programmable building material, the research team designed the new nanomaterial which enables them to create new engineered materials for optics, catalysis, and extreme environments.
During the manufacture process of materials, the various building blocks composed of nanoparticles and DNA shift into place on their own based on a defined blueprint designed by the researchers.
However, the imaging and exploiting of these tiny structures with X-rays needed them to be converted into inorganic materials that could resist X-rays and at the same time provide useful functionality. For the first time, the details of the material including the imperfections within the newly arranged nanomaterials could be viewed.
While DNA-based framework of nanomaterials offers significant control for fine tuning of the desired properties, on the downside, they don’t make perfect structures to fully correspond to the blueprint.