Order Through Chaos


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intriguing nanotube shapes

Thanks to the rising trend toward miniaturization, carbon nanotubes – being about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair and possessing unique mechanical, electronic, optical and thermal properties – have become the ideal candidates for use as building blocks for nanoelectronic and mechanical devices. But their minuteness and a tendency to clump together make it difficult for scientists to manipulate nanotubes for integration into such nanodevices.

Dr. Ernesto Joselevich, together with Ph.D. student Ariel Ismach and former M.Sc. student Noam Geblinger of the Materials and Interfaces Department, are developing techniques to coax the nanotubes to self-assemble into disentangled, orderly structures – essentially making the nanotubes do the hard work for them.

By applying the universal principle of “order through chaos,” the team has produced nanotubes that are strikingly more ordered and complex than those ever observed before. Their intriguing new type of nanotube structures, which they have termed “serpentines” due to their self-assembly into snake-like and looped configurations, has recently been featured on the cover of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Serpentines are common structures on the macroscale in such functional systems as antennae, radiators and cooling elements. Analogously, nanotube serpentines could find a wide range of nanodevice applications – for example, in cooling elements for electronic circuits, optoelectronic devices and power-generating single-molecule dynamos. “But the feature I find most intriguing about these serpentines,” says Joselevich, “is their beauty.”  

An animated movie explaining nanotube serpentine formation can be seen at :

 Dr. Ernesto Joselevich’s research is supported by the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for Nanoscale Science; the Gerhardt Schmidt Minerva Center on Supramolecular Architectures; and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust. Dr. Joselevich is the incumbent of the Dr. Victor L. Ehrlich Career Development Chair.