Want a ‘Shrinky Dinks’ approach to nano-sized devices? Try hydrogels

Excessive-tech shrink artwork will be the key to creating tiny electronics, 3-D nanostructures and even holograms for hiding secret messages.

A brand new strategy to creating tiny constructions depends on shrinking them down after building them, somewhat than making them small to start with, researchers report within the Dec. 23 Science.

The bottom line is spongelike hydrogel materials that increase or contract in response to surrounding chemical compounds (SN: 1/20/10). By inscribing patterns in hydrogels with a laser after which shrinking the gels all the way down to about one-thirteenth their unique dimension, the researchers created patterns with particulars as small as 25 billionths of a meter throughout.

At that stage of precision, the researchers might create letters sufficiently small to simply write this whole article alongside the circumference of a typical human hair.

Organic scientist Yongxin Zhao and colleagues deposited quite a lot of supplies within the patterns to create nanoscopic photos of Chinese language zodiac animals. By shrinking the hydrogels after laser etching, a number of of the photographs ended up roughly the dimensions of a pink blood cell. They included a monkey manufactured from silver, a gold-silver alloy pig, a titanium dioxide snake, an iron oxide canine and a rabbit manufactured from luminescent nanoparticles.

two red dragons made from hydrogels
These two dragons, every roughly 40 micrometers lengthy, had been made by depositing cadmium selenide quantum dots onto a laser-etched hydrogel. The pink stripes on the left dragon are every simply 200 nanometers thick.The Chinese language College of Hong Kong, Carnegie Mellon College

As a result of the hydrogels might be repeatedly shrunk and expanded with chemical baths, the researchers had been additionally in a position to create holograms in layers inside a piece of hydrogel to encode secret info. Shrinking a hydrogel hologram makes it unreadable. “If you wish to learn it, it’s a must to increase the pattern,” says Zhao, of Carnegie Mellon College in Pittsburgh. “However you might want to increase it to precisely the identical extent” as the unique. In impact, understanding how a lot to increase the hydrogel serves as a key to unlock the data hidden inside.  

However essentially the most thrilling side of the analysis, Zhao says, is the wide selection of supplies that researchers can use on such minute scales. “We can mix several types of supplies collectively and make actually useful nanodevices.”


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