Thursday, 7 February 2013

Physicists Shine a Light On Particle Assembly


Jan. 31, 2013 — New York University physicists have developed a method for moving microscopic particles with the flick of a light switch. Their work, reported in the journal Science, relies on a blue light to prompt colloids to move and then assemble -- much like birds flock and move together in flight.

The method offers the potential to enhance the design of a range of industrial products, including the architecture of electronics.

The study's authors were: Jeremie Palacci and Stefano Sacanna, post-doctoral fellows in NYU's Center for Soft Matter Research who devised the research; David Pine and Paul Chaikin, professors in NYU's Department of Physics; and Asher Preska Steinberg, an undergraduate at Brandeis University who was a summer research program participant at NYU.

The work addresses a fundamental question in nature -- what causes flocks and swarms to form and move in a particular way? Schools of fish, colony formations of bacteria, or flocks of birds are examples of how this occurs in living matter. In this inquiry, the researchers focused on making artificial systems exhibit similar activity. They used colloids -- small particles suspended within a fluid medium -- and discovered the basic organizing principles in natural flocking and how to use this to organize inorganic matter.

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