Environmental and Sensing Applications of Molecular Self-Assembly


X. Feng Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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In the last decade, we have witnessed many exciting new discoveries in the ability to manipulate and measure matter at the nanometer scale—honeycombed pores structures, spheres, icosahedra, nanotubes and nanorods, and self-assembled structural hierarchies; the esthetics of the nanometer regime offers Nature's elegance in its purest form. Understanding the driving forces behind these shapes and the self-assembly processes provides key understanding for this chemistry to be exploited for positive impact on our daily lives. For this to take place, we must not only understand how the nanoscopic structures impact the structural and chemical properties of these novel new materials, but we must also understand the critical problems that we face today and how these nanoscopic properties can be tailored to address these specific needs and critical problems. The purpose of this article is to show how this understanding can be applied to the synthesis of nanostructured hybrid materials that can address needs in the areas of drinking water purification, environmental remediation, and enhancing the sensitivity of analytical methods for detecting heavy metal contamination.