Technology, Human Interest

- Apr 01, 2019

Using Temperature Chambers to Assemble Nano-Sized Building Blocks

Pollyanna Sidell - Associated Environmental Systems
Temperature Chambers for Nano Cube Assembly

For the past 20 (or so) years, nano-scientists have been working to push the boundaries of engineering to smaller and smaller scales. Through years of focused research and development, applications of nanotechnology have begun to improve many technology and industry sectors. According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative website (, nano-technology has helped to revolutionize “Information technology, security, medicine, transportation, energy, food safety, and environmental science.”

However, engineering at such a small scale is still extremely challenging and, as we continue to push further in the pursuit of new sciences such as artificial chemical life, our understanding of nano-scale assembly will be stretched to the limits.

Recently though, researchers at the University of Tokyo, led by Professor Shuichi Hiraoka, identified the weak molecular forces that hold together tiny, self-assembling nano boxes. Why is this a big deal? Well, according to, “The formation of DNA and proteins are biological examples of self-assembly, but the forces or processes controlling how these natural molecules come together also remain undefined. Investigations by Hiraoka's team contribute to chemical understanding of how natural molecules might self-assemble and reveal techniques for mimicking those processes in the future.”

The post titled, Just add heat to open this tiny box, explains the process by which Professor Hiraoka and his team were able to manipulate the nanocubes:

The new building blocks designed by Hiroka's team can connect or scramble themselves automatically because of the different temperature stabilities of the cubes that they form.

The two types of building blocks are nearly identical and are shaped like snowflakes. Researchers color them red or blue in schematic diagrams...A cube assembled from red blocks is stable below 130 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit), while a cube assembled from blue blocks is stable only below 65 degrees Celsius (149 degrees Fahrenheit). When kept apart, the building blocks connect into entirely red or entirely blue uniform cubes. When the two types of cubes are mixed together at room temperature (25 degrees Celsius, 77 degrees Fahrenheit), the red and blue building blocks automatically recombine into the most stable type of cubes, which are made of any combination of three red and three blue blocks. This mixture of red-blue cubes is analogous to well-mixed ink and water.

When researchers want to scramble the red-blue cubes to reform entirely red and entirely blue cubes, they do a simple two-step temperature change...

First, they heat the mixture up to boiling (100 degrees Celsius, 212 degrees Fahrenheit). The blue cubes become unstable and float off as individual molecules, while the red building blocks recombine into entirely red cubes.

Then, researchers rapidly cool the mixture (0 degrees Celsius, 32 degrees Fahrenheit) so that the red cubes stay together while the blue building blocks automatically assemble into entirely blue cubes.”

Obviously, temperature control is a vital component of this process. This is where our chambers may be able to help expand the possibilities of nano-engineering. AES temperature chambers are capable of maintaining precise temperatures. Our temperature chambers are also able to rapidly change temperatures along tightly controlled parameters and we offer custom options, such as liquid nitrogen boost cooling or extra heating elements, for applications that require fast ramp and pull time times.

To learn more about Associated Environmental Systems temperature chambers please visit our chamber page or contact a representative today. Our sales and support teams are highly trained and can help to answer any questions you may have.


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