Accidental nano-breakthrough may be big for batteries, bioenergy

Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:20pm EDT

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., have found a way to assemble nanoparticles into larger structures, a technique that could accelerate the development of battery and bioenergy-based technologies.

Argonne biophysicist John Bahns said in a press release that the research could be used to build cathodes with large surface areas, which could then be turned into high-energy batteries. His colleague Liaohai Chen said the technology could also be  used to create miniscule imaging probes in biological systems, which would be useful for studying bioenergy applications.

Researchers used a low-powered laser, similar in intensity to the ones used for slideshow presentations, to guide gold and carbon particles into a continuous filament. The technique is known as “optically directed assembly” or ODA, but the scientists casually refer to the new process as a “magic wand” because of the way the particles follow the laser.

Apparently, the discovery was made by accident. The researchers were studying carbon particles in soil and added gold particles to boost the laser signals. They found that carbon and gold particle chains would form wherever they moved the laser.

[Image courtesy Argonne National Laboratory]

Tags: batteries, bioenergy, nanotechnology, particles

Companies: Argonne National Laboratory, Department of Energy

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