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Self-adaptive material heals itself, stays tough

May be a useful biocompatible material for tissue engineering or a lightweight, defect-tolerant structural component
January 12, 2016

Rice University postdoctoral researcher Pei Dong holds a sample of SAC, a new form of self-adapting composite. The material has the ability to heal itself and to regain its original shape after extraordinary compression. (credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

A flexible adaptive material invented at Rice University combines self-healing and reversible self-stiffening properties.

The material, called SAC (for self-adaptive composite), consists of sticky, micron-scale rubber balls that form a solid matrix. The researchers made SAC by mixing two polymers and a solvent that evaporates when heated, leaving a porous mass of gooey spheres. When cracked, the matrix quickly heals, over and over. And like a sponge, it… read more

Self-aligning carbon nanotubes could be key to next generation of devices

February 26, 2009
Scanning electron microscope image of electrodes (inset) and single-walled carbon nanotube bridge structure

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers have created nanoscale devices based on connecting sharp-tipped electrodes with individually self-aligned carbon nanotubes.

The finding could lead to new applications in devices such as biosensors, light emitters, photon sensors, tiny molecular motors and memory cells.

Self-Assembled Materials Form Mini Stem Cell Lab

March 28, 2008

Northwestern University researchers have built self-assembling thin-film sacs able to hold human stem cells for four weeks in culture, keeping the cells separated while allowing proteins to cross the membrane.

This new mode of self-assembly from a mix of peptide amphiphiles and biopolymers also can produce thin films whose size and shape can be tailored. The method could be used in cell therapy and other biological applications and in… read more

Self-assembled nano-sized probes image tumors through flesh and skin

February 8, 2005

Nano-sized particles embedded with bright, light-emitting molecules have enabled researchers to visualize a tumor more than one centimeter below the skin surface using only near-infrared light.

They used fluorescent materials called porphyrins within the surface of a polymersome, a cell-like vesicle, to image a tumor within a living rodent. It should also be possible to use an emissive polymersome vesicle to transport therapeutics directly to a tumor.

The… read more

Self-assembled nanocells function as non-volatile memory

October 20, 2003

“Nanocells,” disordered assemblies of gold nanowires and conductive organic molecules, can function as non-volatile memory, Rice University chemists have found.

NanoCells offer the potential to reduce device size and fabrication costs by several orders of magnitude

The research appears in the Oct. 29 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. It marks the first time that a self-assembled ensemble of molecular electronic components has been used… read more

Self-assembled nanoparticles release chemotherapy drug and heat to treat cancer

October 21, 2012

gold nanorods

In new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), researchers have invented self-assembled, multifunctional, near-infrared-light-responsive nanoparticles to treat cancer.

The nanoparticles can deliver a chemotherapy drug specifically targeted to cancer cells and selectively release the drug in response to an external beam of light. They can also create heat for synergistic thermo-chemo-mediated anti-tumor effects.

Excitement around the potential for targeted nanoparticles (NPs) that can be controlled… read more

Self-assembled nanoshell structures have unique optical properties

May 28, 2010

Optical Legos

Scientists from four U.S. universities have created a way to use Rice University’s self-assembled, light-activated nanoshells as building blocks for 2-D and 3-D structures that could find use in chemical sensors, nanolasers and light-absorbing metamaterials.

The new materials are ideally suited for making ultrasensitive biological and chemical sensors, said study co-author Peter Nordlander, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. He said they may also be useful… read more

Self-assembled nanostructures function better than bone as porosity increases

July 11, 2007

Nanoscale silica materials self-assembled in artificially determined patterns can improve upon nature’s designs, such as bone material, researchers have found.

The silica nanostructures may improve performance where increased pore volume is important. These include modern thin-film applications such as membrane barriers, molecular recognition sensors, and low-dielectric-constant insulators needed for future generation of microelectronic devices.

Self-assembled networks grown from carbon nanotube bridges

April 15, 2005

Case Western Reserve University engineers are growing building blocks of large-scale integrated circuits by growing self-assembled and self-welded carbon nanotubes.

Case Western Reserve University news release

Self-Assembled Organic Circuits

October 17, 2008
(Philips Research Laboratories)

Philips Research Laboratories researchers have found a simple way to make high-performance electronic circuits from organic semiconductors, bringing us one step closer to low-cost, bendable plastic electronics.

They developed self-assembling semiconductor molecules that automatically arrange themselves on a surface in a layer just a few nanometers thick, making hundreds of transistors arranged into complex circuits.

Self-Assembling Batteries

February 19, 2007

Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials.

This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices.

Self-assembling computer chips

March 17, 2010

MIT researchers have developed a new technique that may lead to shrinking chip features, using chain-like self-assembling molecules that arrange themselves into complex patterns to create desired patterns.

The method uses electron-beam lithography (which is more precise than conventional optical lithography) to create patterns of tiny posts that become “hitching posts” to which the molecules can attach themselves and spontaneously assume the desired pattern.

More info:… read more

Self-assembling cubes could carry medicine, cell therapy

December 13, 2005

Johns Hopkins researchers have devised a self-assembling cube-shaped perforated container, no larger than a dust speck, that could serve as a delivery system for medications and cell therapy.

The relatively inexpensive microcontainers can be mass-produced through a process that mixes electronic chip-making techniques with basic chemistry. Because of their metallic nature, the cubic container’s location in the body could easily be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging.

The researchers… read more

Self-assembling DNA ‘building blocks’ could create drug-delivery machines

May 31, 2012


Wyss Institute researchers have developed a method for building complex nanostructures out of short synthetic strands of DNA.

Called single-stranded tiles (SSTs), these interlocking DNA “building blocks,” akin to Legos, can be programmed to assemble themselves into precisely designed shapes, such as letters and emoticons.

Further development of the technology could make it possible to create new nanoscale devices — to deliver drugs directly to disease… read more

Self-assembling DNA molecules act as scaffolding as a first step in creating artificial photosynthesis

June 26, 2013

An artificial light-collecting antenna system. Binding a large number of light-absorbing molecules ("red balls") to a DNA molecule, which is then modified with a porphyrin unit (blue) will result in the creation of a self-assembling system that resembles light harvesting in natural photosynthesis.

A research team at Chalmers University of Technology The team has demonstrated that it is possible to use self-assembling DNA molecules as scaffolding as a first step to create artificial photosynthesis.

Proteins in plants and algae create a complex scaffolding (structure) that organizes chlorophyll molecules to collect light and use it to synthesize sugars and other energy-rich molecules in a reaction center. Previous attempts at… read more

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