Unique properties (e.g., rubber elasticity, viscoelasticity, folding, reptation) determine the utility of polymer molecules and derive from their morphology (i.e., one-dimensional connectivity and large aspect ratios) and flexibility. Crystals do not display similar properties because they have smaller aspect ratios, they are rigid, and they are often too large and heavy to be colloidally stable. These limitations are not fundamental and they can be overcome by growth processes that mimic polymerization.
Our laboratory works with a unique class of materials: crystalline nanowires that display the morphological properties of polymer molecules. We use these materials as a testbed to answer fundamental questions about analogies between polymers and crystals. We also use them for their unique properties. For example, we are currently using these materials as a completely new kind of photoresist that has the potential to revolutionize the lithography processes with which most microchips are made.
The students will learn the synthesis of these nanowires and characterize their polymer-like properties and their behaviour as photoresists.
Program mentor: Ludovico Cademartiri, Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Iowa State University