Nanocrystals refer to nanometre-sized spheres comprising of frequently arranged atoms. They are endowed with numerous advantageous properties, and for this reason, they are on the rise amongst several applications. For instance, semiconductor nanocrystals are popularly used in new generation television screens. Even more recently, intermetallic nanocrystals wherein two different metals merge to make a crystal lattice have come to the limelight as they have great potential for developing novel applications. Such uses range from medicine to catalysis to data storage.
Now, scientists have produced nanocrystals comprising of two distinct metals through an amalgamation process whereby a liquid metal infiltrates the solid one. The new and uniquely intuitive technique is a huge contribution to Nanocrystals Glass Market as it has the potential to generate a great variety of intermetallic nanocrystals having customized properties that can then be used in diverse applications.
In the present research, the team made use of the amalgamation approach at a very small level. The process consists of a reaction that starts with the dispersion of nanocrystals comprising of a single metal, like silver. Thereafter, the atoms of the second metal, for example, gallium, are mixed in molecular form; simultaneously, the mixture is being heated till approx. 300 degrees.
At the outset, chemical bonds inside gallium-amide might break due to high temperatures. This would allow liquid gallium to come together on the silver nanocrystals. Herein the actual amalgamation process starts within which liquid gallium starts to creep into the solid silver. As time passes, a new crystal lattice is formed, where silver and gallium atoms are consistently arranged. After this, everything is cooled, and ten minutes later, nanocrystals are ready. The amalgamation is very efficient at the nanoscale. The key, however, is to have one liquid metal component so that there is fast and uniform alloying inside all nanocrystals.
Through the technique, researchers have already managed to have produced distinct intermetallic nanocrystals such as palladium-zinc, gold-gallium ad copper-gallium. The team revealed that the amalgamation process itself could be accurately steered. By introducing the numbers of secondary atoms into the solution as amides, the consistency of the metals present in the nanocrystals can be precisely designed and managed. Further, the size of the final product can also be predicted with the help of the size taken of the initial nanocrystals and the increased size because of the second metal.
Since the amalgamation process was so successful so as to enable numerous new compositions, one can expect that in time they would show potential towards improving plasmonics, catalysis, and lithium-ion batteries.
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