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Self-assembly technique yields flexible ceramic

Posted: 27 Mar 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cornell University? polymer? ceramic? battery? fuel cell?

An atomic self-assembly technique devised at Cornell University uses carbon polymers to create a new type of hybrid material that has the flexibility of polymers and the strength of ceramics. It was also found to be a good conductor of ions, which could result in a superior electrolyte for batteries or fuel cells.

The researchers started with a known self-assembling molecule called a diblock copolymer. They succeeded in blending the copolymer with silica molecules.

After applying chemical steps that stimulate self-assembly, they found that a regular three-dimensional pattern called a cubic bicontinuous structure resulted.

Although theorists have predicted such a geometry, this is the first known physical embodiment. The resulting material isn't simply a blend of the two material types. Instead, it has many unique properties never seen before in a single material, said Ulrich Wiesner, the lead researcher. The self-assembly capability could be put to work to create large batches of the material, he pointed out. The process is highly versatile and could lead to a whole class of related materials, depending on the initial configuration of copolymer and silica.

? Chappell Brown

EE Times

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