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Reproducing nature's chemistry: Researchers alter molecular properties in a new way
Date:8/29/2013

tance between the molecules, making it possible for the researchers to induce so-called "patchiness" on cylindrical- and dumbbell-shaped nanoparticles. Essentially, the molecules can "feel" each other through repulsive electrostatic interactions and, as the carboxylic acids are depronated, the difficulty in adding more charges onto the nanoparticles is controlled by how crowded the molecules are. These "patchy" nanoparticles can interact and self-assemble directionally, mimicking chemical molecular bonds and, the researchers found, altering when the charge of these attached molecules changes.

"Changing molecular properties by altering environments instead of molecular structure could free scientists to accomplish more with a smaller library of already existing molecules, and could offer alternatives to chemical processes that often require toxic chemicals," said David Walker, a graduate student in McCormick's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the paper's first author.

The curvature phenomenon is specific to the nano-scale, where most of the chemistry in biological systems is performed, and begins to fail for nanoparticles above 10 nanometers in diameter, the researchers said. "Larger particles have curvatures that are just too subtle for the molecules to feel the effect similar to how humans might perceive the Earth to be flat, even though we now know better," Walker said.

The researchers are currently working to extend the work to other classes of molecules that could be beneficial for catalysis and energy purposes.


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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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