Advanced Materials

Nanowires and Nanostructures that Grow like Polymer Molecules

Authors

  • Santosh Shaw,

    1. Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 2220 Hoover Hall, Ames, IA, 50011, USA
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  • Ludovico Cademartiri

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 2220 Hoover Hall, Ames, IA, 50011, USA
    2. Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, IA, 50011, USA, Ames Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Ames, IA, 50011, USA
    • Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 2220 Hoover Hall, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.
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Abstract

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. We argue, with the support of recent experimental studies, that these limitations are not fundamental and that they might be overcome by growth processes that mimic polymerization. Furthermore, we (i) discuss the similarities between crystallization and polymerization, (ii) critically review the existing experimental evidence of polymer-like growth kinetic and behavior in crystals and nanostructures, and (iii) propose heuristic guidelines for the synthesis of “polymer-like” crystals and assemblies. Understanding these anisotropic materials at the boundary between molecules and solids will determine whether we can confer the unique properties of polymer molecules to crystals, expanding them with topology, dynamics, and information and not just tuning them with size.

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