Weaving Of Nanomaterials Achieved For Scientific First

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While weaving dates to the paleolithic era, scientists recently achieved a first with the weaving of nanomaterials, specifically, covalent organic frameworks.

The benefits of weaving

Weaving goes way way back and has been something that has fascinating to me. My great-grandmother’s work on her loom located upstairs in a creaky old 19th century house resonated through the house when I was a child. As someone who has traveled to over 50 countries, I’ve always been fascinated by the techniques and contraptions used to weave around the world; from the backstrap techniques of Guatemala to the Persian rug in my living room I’ve always been fascinated by the process and the end results.

Now, for the first time, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have once again piqued by interest on a greater, albeit, very small scale.

In a new paper published in the journal Science, scientists describe how they successfully wove helical organic threads. These threads used for gas storage, and catalytic and photonic applications called COFs (covalent organic frameworks).

The object of their work was to increase resiliency, reversibility and flexibility in the nano-environment.

My weaving limits, means the scientists must speak

“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,” wrote researcher Omar Yaghi, a chemist with the lab and University of Berkeley.

“Weaving in chemistry has been long sought after and is unknown in biology,” Yaghi added. “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 using a copper complex, the researchers were able to weave on organic compound known as “phenanthroline” to create an organic framework, a nanomaterial they have called COF-505. Following this process, the  copper complex can be removed or restored through the use of X-ray and electron diffraction.

The porous nature of COFs and MOFs make them ideal for the storage of carbon and researchers hope to use this to better store gas in, for example, hydrogen powered engines.

“That our system can switch between two states of elasticity reversibly by a simple operation, the first such demonstration in an extended chemical structure, means that cycling between these states can be done repeatedly without degrading or altering the structure,” Yaghi explained. “Based on these results, it is easy to imagine the creation of molecular cloths that combine unusual resiliency, strength, flexibility and chemical variability in one material.”

In addition to work in gas storage the researchers believe the weaving of nanomaterials could provide for creating more efficient electronic devices.

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