‚Artificial Atoms‘ Rapidly Self-Assembling Into Complex Structures

Humans have been building things out of other things since the Stone Age, but it’s really been the past 200 years that things have gotten wild.

By Michael Byrne | MOTHERBOARD

Just think of all of the alloys, plastics, rubbers, silicon substrates, liquid crystals, and hacked DNA molecules. It would have been easy enough to just declare ourselves gods of materials science and take a vacation, but researchers want to go deeper. As deep as it gets, really—hacking together atoms themselves and then making entirely new sorts of structures from those meta-atoms.

And that’s where we’re at. Really, we’ve been in the midst of a metamaterials revolution for about the past decade—with atomically thin graphene at the heart of much of said revolution—and it likely hasn’t even peaked. Consider a new paper out Monday in Nature describing the rapid crystallization of superlattice nanostructures from engineered „artificial atoms.“ While growing such materials from the ground up has usually been understood as a prohibitively slow process, the new work speeds things up by orders of magnitude—from days to seconds.

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