Advanced research in 'little world' of nanoscience brings awards to three at Hebrew University

06/20/05



Illustrations show a single “nanodumbbell,” with gold tips at each end, and a group of such structures.
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

"Little Things Mean a Lot" was the title of an American hit song back in the 1950s. Half a century later, those words have taken on ever increasing significance in the rapidly expanding field of nanoscience, as reflected in the awarding this month of three prestigious prizes during the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Board of Governors meeting.

For their work in nanoscience research, two of the recipients received Kaye Innovation Awards: Prof. Uri Banin, professor of physical chemistry and founding director of the Harvey M. Krueger Family Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the Hebrew University, and his student, Taleb Mokari. The third winner, Ph.D. student Eli Rothenberg, received the Barenholz Prize in Applied Science.

All three have been involved with groundbreaking research on colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, specifically the development of new, varied shapes of these crystals. Semiconductor nanocrystals are tiny particles with dimensions of merely a few nanometers. A nanometer (nm) is one-billionth of a meter, or about a hundred-thousandth of the diameter of a human hair. These nanocrystals exhibit unique optical and electrical properties that are controlled by modifying their particle size, composition and shape, creating promising building blocks for future nanotechnology devices,



Illustrations show a single “nanodumbbell,” with gold tips at each end, and a group of such structures.
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Prof. Banin and his students have developed nanocrystals that emit bright light in the near-infrared region, a spectral range important for optical telecommunication applications. Another invention is that of nanocrystals in the form of gold-tipped, tiny dumbbells. The nanodumbells – shaped somewhat like mini-weightlifting bars – offer a solution to problems of building new nanocrystal transistors, the basic component of computer chips. Their invention was described in an article last year in the prestigious journal Science.

The nanodumbbells provide strong chemical bonds between the gold and the semiconductor, leading to good electrical connectivity. The gold tips are also anchor points that could be used for integrating the nanodumbbells into electrical circuits, using self-assembly. This provides a path towards solving the problem of wiring nanocrystals into real-world, nanoelectronic applications, such as in mini-computers, nanosensors for chemical and biological molecules, novel solar-cell devices, or for various biomedical applications.

Some $6 million has been invested in state-of-the-art equipment for the new Unit for Nanoscopic Characterization at the Hebrew University, and about $4 million is to be invested in a Nanofabrication Center, making the university one of the leading centers for nanoscience and nanotechnology in Israel..

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