Jun. 26, 2017

Can new stunning varieties of nanostructures, with remarkable optical, electronic, catalytic and mechanical properties, comprising metal cores within shells of inorganic compounds, be generated in the laboratory, in procedures that are simultaneously safe, rapid, high-yield, and amenable to scale-up? 

The teams of Prof. Reshef Tenne at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Prof. Jeff​rey Gordon and Prof. Da​niel Feuermann at BGU's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR) combined expertise in materials science and solar concentrator optics to do just that. They have produced yet another "first" in the realization of singular nanomaterials: both closed-cage (fullerene-like) and nanotube particles with a metal (lead, Pb) core, and outer shells of gallium sulfide (GaS). 


Above: Prof. Daniel Feuermann (left) and Prof. Jeffrey Gordon (right).


The article detailing their success was published in the journal NA​NO with the journal having chosen to showcase this article on its cover-page. 


The use of immensely concentrated sunlight at the service of fundamentally new nanomaterials represents a new paradigm for solar energy, geared toward generating valued new materials at the service of human technology, rather than producing heat, electricity or fuels. 


In terms of future applications: The strongly anisotropic optical, electrical, and mechanical properties of GaS make these nanostructures promising candidates for assorted optoelectronic devices and sensors. In addition, GaS nanostructures can intercalate foreign atoms, yielding electrochemical properties that render them suitable for rechargeable batteries. 


The principal novelty here is the experimental realization of core-shell Pb@GaS nanostructures that had been neither anticipated nor synthesized previously. Their realization was elusive because the thickness of the GaS layers hampers the formation of such highly-curved structures. 


But the unique extensive ultra-high-temperature (approaching 3000°C) reaction and annealing conditions created in the solar furnaces developed by Professors Gordon and Feuermann for these experiments are conducive to these unusual formations. 


Furthermore, part of the interest in these Pb-filled nanostructures stems from recent studies showing the effect of the shape and size of Pb nanoparticles on their superconducting properties, and intimating that Pb@GaS nanoparticles may have novel superconducting properties, which the authors hope to explore in future investigations. 


Gordon and Feuermann are members of the Alexand​re Yersin Department of Solar Energy and EnvironmentalPhysics (YDSEEP) of The Swi​ss Institute for Dryland Environmental & Energy Research, one of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research at BGU.


This research was supported by Israel Science Foundation First Program Grant No. 469/11 and the support of the Israel National Nano-Initiative, the H. Perlman Foundation, the Irving and Azelle Waltcher Foundation in honor of Prof. M. Levy, and the Irving and Cherna Moskowitz Center for Nano and Bio-Nano Imaging.