New ‘Hybrid’ Nano-Glass now has smart potential


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A graphic representation of nanoparticles embedded in glass. Credit: University of Adelaide

Australian researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a method for embedding light-emitting nanoparticles into glass without losing any of their unique properties – a major step towards ‘smart glass’ applications such as 3D display screens or remote radiation sensors.

This new “hybrid glass” successfully combines the of these special luminescent (or light-emitting) with the well-known aspects of glass, such as transparency and the ability to be processed into various shapes including very fine optical fibres.

The research, in collaboration with Macquarie University and University of Melbourne, has been published online in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

“These novel luminescent nanoparticles, called upconversion nanoparticles, have become promising candidates for a whole variety of ultra-high tech applications such as biological sensing, biomedical imaging and 3D volumetric displays,” says lead author Dr Tim Zhao, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Physical Sciences and Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS).

“Integrating these nanoparticles into glass, which is usually inert, opens up exciting possibilities for new hybrid materials and devices that can take advantage of the properties of nanoparticles in ways we haven’t been able to do before. For example, neuroscientists currently use dye injected into the brain and lasers to be able to guide a glass pipette to the site they are interested in. If fluorescent nanoparticles were embedded in the glass pipettes, the unique luminescence of the hybrid glass could act like a torch to guide the pipette directly to the individual neurons of interest.”

Although this method was developed with upconversion nanoparticles, the researchers believe their new ‘direct-doping’ approach can be generalised to other nanoparticles with interesting photonic, electronic and magnetic properties. There will be many applications – depending on the properties of the nanoparticle.

“If we infuse glass with a nanoparticle that is sensitive to radiation and then draw that hybrid glass into a fibre, we could have a remote sensor suitable for nuclear facilities,” says Dr Zhao.

To date, the method used to integrate upconversion nanoparticles into glass has relied on the in-situ growth of the nanoparticles within the glass.

“We’ve seen remarkable progress in this area but the control over the nanoparticles and the glass compositions has been limited, restricting the development of many proposed applications,” says project leader Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heideprem, Deputy Director of IPAS.

“With our new direct doping method, which involves synthesizing the nanoparticles and glass separately and then combining them using the right conditions, we’ve been able to keep the nanoparticles intact and well dispersed throughout the glass. The nanoparticles remain functional and the glass transparency is still very close to its original quality. We are heading towards a whole new world of hybrid and devices for light-based technologies.”

Explore further: Ancient Roman glass inspires modern science

More information: Jiangbo Zhao et al. Upconversion Nanocrystal-Doped Glass: A New Paradigm for Photonic Materials, Advanced Optical Materials (2016). DOI: 10.1002/adom.201600296

 

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Nanotechnology material could help reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8(Nanowerk News) University of Adelaide researchers have  developed a new nanomaterial that could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions  from coal-fired power stations.
The new nanomaterial, described in the Journal of the  American Chemical Society (“Post-synthetic Structural Processing in a  Metal–Organic Framework Material as a Mechanism for Exceptional CO2/N2 Selectivity”), efficiently separates the  greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from nitrogen, the other significant component of  the waste gas released by coal-fired power stations. This would allow the carbon  dioxide to be separated before being stored, rather than released to the  atmosphere.
“A considerable amount of Australia‘s – and the world’s – carbon  dioxide emissions come from coal-fired power stations,” says Associate Professor  Christopher Sumby, project leader and ARC Future Fellow in the  University’s School of Chemistry and Physics.
“Removing CO2 from the flue gas  mixture is the focus of a lot of research. Most of Australia’s energy generation  still comes from coal. Changing to cleaner energies is not that straightforward  but, if we can clean up the emissions, we’ve got a great stop-gap technology.”
The researchers have produced a new absorbent material, called a  ‘metal-organic framework‘, which has “remarkable selectivity” for separating  CO2 from nitrogen.
“It is like a sponge but at a nanoscale,” says Associate  Professor Sumby. “The material has small pores that gas molecules can fit into –  a CO2 molecule fits but a nitrogen molecule is  slightly too big. That’s how we separate them.”
Other methods of separating CO2 from nitrogen are energy-intensive and expensive. This material has the  potential to be more energy efficient. It’s easy to regenerate (removing the  CO2) for reuse, with small changes in temperature  or pressure.
“This material could be used as it is but there are probably  smarter ways to implement the benefits,” says Associate Professor Sumby.
“One of the next steps we’re pursuing is taking the material in  powder form and dispersing it in a membrane. That may be more practical for  industrial use.”
The project is funded by the Science Industry Endowment Fund and  is a collaboration between researchers in the Centre of Advanced  Nanomaterials, in the School of Chemistry and Physics, and the CSIRO.
Source: University of Adeleide

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