A breakthrough by scientists at the University of Chicago has created a way to accelerate the search for potential new materials for electronics and other applications. Above, is a fantastic presentation of “robots” piled thin films on an assembly line. Credit: Offered by Andrew.
The technique of UChicago scientists creates an ‘assembly line’ to combine new materials
Suppose you are an engineer who has an idea for a new car. But before you can start experimenting, you have to spend hours screwing the tires and making the rubber from scratch.
It’s like a challenge for researchers trying to invent a new kind of technology. The ability to build a flexible screen or a new solar panel begins with the discovery of a new combination of materials with unusual properties on the atomic scale. But in the field of 2D materials, considered one of the most exciting areas for the electronics of the future, scientists still have to work hard to create every possible new material before testing its capabilities.
A new technique involves giving the robot a hand. The research, developed by scientists at the University of Chicago, Cornell University, and the University of Michigan, offers an innovative manufacturing method for assembling nanomaterials.
Scientists hope that this recently published process in Nature Nanotechnology could accelerate advances in the field.
“The process is completely automated – you can program it and go from there,” said co-author Andrew Manx, a former postdoctoral fellow at Chicago Kidanov-Rice who is now an assistant professor at Stanford University. ? “Previously, if you wanted to try out 10 different layouts of content, it would all be done by hand, which is weeks of hard work. Now we can do it in an hour. Will reduce and open new lines of investigation in this interesting field.
A Short Assembly Line
The field of 2D materials includes stacking sheets that are only a few atoms thick each. When layers are so thin, even ordinary materials often create amazing new patterns. Carbon, for example, demonstrates sudden superconductivity, the ability to conduct electricity flawlessly, when two layers are placed vertically at a “magic” angle.
Scientists are particularly interested in assembling a wide variety of 2D materials, Mannix said: So you can get some pretty new physics because the interactions between the layers are modified.
However, the process of discovery is limited and slow, because scientists must first work hard to collect these compounds and test them one by one.
UChicago scientists set out to solve this problem. The group, led by Professor Jeevong Park, an expert in nanomaterials, had already devised a way to create complex nuclear thin sheets and peel and assemble them. Now they need to run this process automatically.
They wanted to create a kind of small assembly line, but each part of the manufacturing process came with its challenges. First, scientists had to find a way to cut their sheets into the right shape, which is difficult to clean without breaking or damaging the sheets. “With experience, we’ve found a technique that can achieve large area patterning with great accuracy and without contaminating the material,” said Andrew Yi, a Ph.D. Student in Park’s lab and second co-author of the dissertation.
The next challenge was to create a “hand” robot capable of using these delicate sheets. “I need to find a polymer that’s good enough to lift the sheets, but it’s also able to pull it down again – slowly and in the right place,” Manx said.
They come with a “hand” made of soft polymer that breaks when exposed to heat or ultraviolet light. Once the sheet is in the correct position, the hand melts and the sheet falls into place.
With this system, scientists can now program their assembly line to create a material structure with dozens of different layers, walk away, and return to the sample ready for testing in a matter of minutes.
Not only sound education but his alertness and dedication too are most required.
“When we first started looking at the problem, it seemed unthinkable to automate it,” said Park, who works in both the chemistry department and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. “It should speed up the pace of discovery. It’s more like the difference between writing a book letter by hand than using a printing press.”
References: Andrew J. Manx, Andrew Yi, Sikh Hyun Sung, Ariana Ray, Fauzia Majeed, Chebium Park, Myungja Li, Jong-Hon Kang, Robert Schreiner, Alexander A.’s “Robotic Four-Dimensional Pixel Assembly of Van der Waals Solids” High, David A. M? ller, Robert Howden and Jeewong Park, January 24, 2022, Nature Nanotechnology.