Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Researchers Discover Self-Assembling Nano-Ice

A research team at University of Nebraska-Lincoln have discovered a new type of nano-ice that self assembles, inside carbon nano-tubes and at high pressures, into double-helixes.

The research, conducted by chemistry professor Xiao Cheng Zeng and his team on the university's PrairieFire supercomputer, could have major implications for scientists in other fields who study the protein structures that cause diseases such as Alzheimer's and bovine spongiform ecephalitis (mad cow disease). It could also help guide those searching for ways to target or direct self-assembly in nanomaterials and predict the kind of ice future astronauts will find on Mars and moons in the solar system.

Another implication, Zeng said, is that these self-assembling helical ice structures may give scientists and engineers a different way to think about weak molecular bonds and the self-assembly process as they try to develop ways to direct self-assembly in making new materials. He said that while scientists have a good understanding of covalent bonds (the strong type of bonding where atoms share electrons), knowledge is not as complete about the weak bond, such as hydrogen bonds, that are essential to the self-assembly process. In weak bonding, atoms don't share electrons.

Read the full story HERE.

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