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Nanoquim: advanced materials at nanometric scale

The Nanoquim Platform laboratory, at the CSIC’s Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona, is specialized in nanostructured materials  preparation. Here it is possible to obtain nanoparticles, nanowires, nanocoatings or molecular assemblies by different chemical processes.

 

Controlled air, temperature and pressure in the Nanoquim Clean Room. Material properties can be dramatically modified when they have nanometric sizes. The ability of a material to develop new electronic or magnetic properties, to store energy or to get energy from sun-light; its efficiency to cataliyze chemical reactions or to transport drugs to cells: all these characteristics can be  dramatically enhanced if the material is properly structured at nanometric scale.

To obtain materials and devices at nanometric scales al low cost and large scale requires a specific strategy: it is the so called “bottom up” approach. With this strategy, the structure of materials is obtained by assembling in a controlled way the atoms or molecules using the physical and chemistry laws.

The Nanoquim Platform laboratory, at the CSIC’s Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona, is specialized in nanostructured materials  preparation. Here it is possible to obtain nanoparticles, nanowires, nanocoatings or molecular assemblies by different chemical processes. The Platform offers different technical services to companies and research groups for the preparation and assessment of new materials.

10.000 class Clean Room

Nanoquim is a 10.000 class Clean Room facility of 200 square metres. It is composed of  five laboratories with independent control of humidity, temperatura and over-pressure: advanced optical lithography, Characterization at the nanoscale of functional materials lab, Physico-chemical chracaterization and nanofabrication lab., Chemical Synthesis lab, and higly control humidity lab for non-aquous solution deposition and growth of nanostructures.

Optical advanced Lithography Lab.

Nanoquim users can choose three modalities to use the Nanoquim Clean Room Facility: self-user, who has enough technical knowledge to work in the lab autonomously; user with technician suport; and user that demands a service which is realized by the Nanoquim technicians.

Nanolayers

One of the most versatile applications of these technology is nanolayers, which can cover and change the properties of almost any surface.  Teresa Puig, research professor at CSIC and director of the Nanoquim Platform, explains that  there are many possible uses of nanolayers. “They can be used to protect solar cells from dump and erosion, for hydrophobic coatings, in order to protect tools from water or to obtain non-wetting clothings. Or to design intelligent clothing through the addition of magnetic, luminiscent or antibacterial nanoparticles. 

This printer, designed by CSIC scientists, uses an “ink” composed of the materials that will form the nanolayer.

Nanostructured materials can be used also for electronic devices. “Chips are getting so small”, points out Teresa Puig, “that the transistors must be also smaller and therefore the isolating coatings for transistors have to be only few nanometres thick. This can be done with a technique called “Atomic layer deposition”, that uses chemical precursors that are evaporated and attached to chip substrates in a controlled way”.

There are other available techniques in the ICMAB laboratories to obtain nanocoatings: immersion (nano dip coating) or ink-jet printing, where a special printer uses an “ink” composed of the materials that will form the nanolayer. Or the methodology called Self Assembly Monolayer SAM's, that creates molecular monolayers for applications in printed electronics.

Nanocomposite materials

Nanocomposites are materials that combine the properties of two different materials to obtain a new functionality. The scientists at the ICMAB used them to obtain superconducting layers with impressive performaces , results which were published in Nature Materials and received wide international recognition. At Nanoquim Platform there is the technology to obtain this kind of nanocomposites that combine nanoparticles and layers.

Microwave synthesis at Nanoquim. The robotic arm places the tube (in the center, with a transparent liquid), which contains the organic solvent and the materials from which nanoparticles will be synthesized.Teresa Puig explains: “In the case of these nanocomposites, we firstly synthetize nanoparticles using a microwawe oven. The nanoparticles arethen stabilized with an organic solvent and a stable suspension is generated.

Afterwards, this mixture is deposited on a surface throughout the ink-jet technique, and it is submitted to a thermal treatment which evaporates the solvent and leaves a superconducting layer with the nanoparticles embeded”. By this process scientists at ICMAB managed to obtain superconducting layers with extraordinarily improved properties which generate very intense magnetic fields.

The microwave synthesis available at Nanoquim allows the obtention of homogeneous nanoparticles from 2 to 5 nanometers. The nanoparticles can be applied for very different uses, such as drug delivery, magneto-optical or plasmonic sensors, or to add advanced properties to traditional products.