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Scientific breakthrough could lead to stronger materials made from tiny glass particles

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Delft, Netherlands — Scientists may be trying to create more powerful smartphone and computer screens, thanks to breakthrough technology that includes small glass particles. An international team has developed a better way to build small particles called colloids that form the backbone of a wide range of products.

They have shown that shapes can be used to easily create interesting designs, regardless of other characteristics.

“This is amazing because it opens up a whole new way of thinking about material design,” said Dr. Laura Rossi, lead author at Delft University of Technology. Media release..

Colloids (small particles suspended in liquids) are an ingredient in items such as paints, cosmetics, sunscreens, medicines, and even foods. They are a few nanometers to a few microns in size, and there are a variety of molecules with different properties depending on what they are made from.

“Under certain circumstances, colloids can behave like atoms and molecules, but their interactions are not very strong,” explains Rossi. “It makes them promising building blocks for new materials, for example for interactive materials that can adapt their properties to their environment.”

How can scientists use these “interesting building blocks”?

If left alone, the colloid of the team’s cube Made of glass It was assembled into a simple structure like a distorted cube or a hexagonal grid. But instead of quickly moving on to the final structure, Dr. Rossi and his colleagues took a small group and put them together in larger pieces. They have become the final form and characteristics that are different from the self-organized ones.

“From a chemical point of view, we are always focused on how to produce certain types of colloids,” says Rossi. “In this study, we shifted our focus to: How can we use colloids that are already available? Interesting building block?? “

4 cubic colloids made from glass (credit: Delft University of Technology)

In almost every manufacturing process, from mayonnaise to latex, ceramics, paper coatings, and Lotions of all kinds.. However, in the past, companies have had to rely heavily on experience to determine the key properties of a suspension: the size of suspended particles and their charge.

Making a mistake can mean overusing materials, ruining an entire batch, or producing inferior products. The ultimate goal is to design complex colloidal structures on demand.

“What we find here is very important. Possible applications require steps that can be scaled up, which is difficult to achieve with most of the approaches currently available,” says Rossi.

“The basic function of pre-assembling the same pieces from different building blocks into the same structure, or taking the same building blocks and pre-assembling different pieces to make different structures, is actually the basic’chess move’. is. “Engineering complex structures,” adds Dr. Greg Van Anders, co-author of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

What is the future of handheld devices?

Survey results published in the journal Science AdvancesThere are potential application hosts.

“We found that the density of the structures we prepared was much lower than the density of the structures obtained using the first building block, so you can think of it as strong. Lightweight material for transportationRossi continues.

Rossi’s group built a colloidal cluster in the lab. They then relied on Dr. Van Anders’ team to build the final structure from pre-assembled clusters in computer simulations.

“In this kind of project, we team up with others who can run the simulation to not only get a deeper understanding of what’s going on, but also to test how likely it is that the experiment in the lab will be successful. It’s great to be able to do it, ”explains Rossi. .. “And in this case, we had a good understanding of the design process and got very convincing results that the resulting material could be useful.”

The next step is to actually build the final structure made from a group of colloids in the lab.

“After seeing these results, I’m sure I can do that,” Rossi concludes. “It’s a good idea to have a physical version of this material in your hand.”

Mark Waghorn, writer of South West News Service, contributed to this report.

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