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. Jeffrey
Gordon and Prof. Daniel 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
Prof. Daniel Feuermann (left) and Prof. Jeffrey Gordon (right).
The article detailing their success was published in the
journal NANO 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
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
Gordon and Feuermann are
members of the Alexandre
Yersin Department of Solar Energy and EnvironmentalPhysics (YDSEEP) of The Swiss 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.