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Elastic membranes of close-packed nanoparticle arrays


Nanoparticle superlattices are hybrid materials composed of close-packed inorganic particles separated by short organic spacers. Most work so far has concentrated on the unique electronic, optical and magnetic behaviour of these systems1,2,3,4,5. Here, we demonstrate that they also possess remarkable mechanical properties. We focus on two-dimensional arrays of close-packed nanoparticles6,7 and show that they can be stretched across micrometre-size holes. The resulting free-standing monolayer membranes extend over hundreds of particle diameters without crosslinking of the ligands or further embedding in polymer. To characterize the membranes we measured elastic properties with force microscopy and determined the array structure using transmission electron microscopy. For dodecanethiol-ligated 6-nm-diameter gold nanocrystal monolayers, we find a Young’s modulus of the order of several GPa. This remarkable strength is coupled with high flexibility, enabling the membranes to bend easily while draping over edges. The arrays remain intact and able to withstand tensile stresses up to temperatures around 370 K. The purely elastic response of these ultrathin membranes, coupled with exceptional robustness and resilience at high temperatures should make them excellent candidates for a wide range of sensor applications.

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Figure 1: Self-assembled ultrathin nanoparticle membranes.
Figure 2: Indentation response.
Figure 3: Membrane resilience at elevated temperatures.


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We thank W. D. Luedtke, S. Nagel, T. Witten, W. Lopes, T. Tran and L. Adams for helpful discussions, Q. Guo and X. Liao for technical assistance and S.-K. Eah for sharing the water-depositing technique. This work was supported by the UC-ANL Consortium for Nanoscience Research and by the NSF MRSEC program under DMR 0213745. R.H.G. was supported by the MRSEC REU program during his stay at the University of Chicago. X.-M.L. acknowledges support from the US DOE, BES-Materials Sciences, under Contract DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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Correspondence to Heinrich M. Jaeger.

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Mueggenburg, K., Lin, XM., Goldsmith, R. et al. Elastic membranes of close-packed nanoparticle arrays. Nature Mater 6, 656–660 (2007).

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