‘Smart’ Engineered Fluids for Ultra-Low-Cost Electronic Devices & Solar Cells

“Efficient Electrosteric Assembly of Nanoparticle Heterodimers and Linear Heteroassemblies,” Langmuir, August 3, 2017
Lilo Pozzo, Ph.D., The Weyerhaeuser Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington
Ryan Kastilani, CEI Graduate Fellow
Ryan Wong, Bellevue Community College, University of Michigan

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When an Intel computer chip or conventional silicon solar cell is manufactured, materials with different functions are placed next to each other in carefully controlled, and often repeating, patterns at the nano- and micro-scale. But, achieving this nano-to-micro-scale manufacturing requires complicated and expensive machines. Getting nature to put different (heterogeneous) materials together spontaneously into repeating patterns, a process called self-assembly, could help. Professor Lilo Pozzo (chemical engineering) has laid out a process called “heteroassembly” to do just that. Starting with an “ink,” a fluid containing nanomaterials with engineered interfaces, Pozzo, CEI Graduate Fellow Ryan Kastilani, and Ryan Wong (Bellevue Community College; now University of Minnesota) show that they can get a mixture of two types of nano-particles, each about 1/1000th the diameter of a hair, to pair and then spontaneously grow in a specific patterned way to form linear heteroassemblies. The key is how Kastilani engineered the particle interfaces to efficiently stick to, or be repelled from, the other kind of particle in the mixture. This is an important step in turning an ink from a “dumb” fluid we use to color a piece of paper, to a “smart” engineered fluid that becomes the foundation for ultra-low-cost manufactured electronic devices and solar cells.

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