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PANDORA Report Summary

Project ID: 321172
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - PANDORA (Performance Active Nanoscale Devices Obtained by Rational Assembly)

The PANDORA project aims to create active nanosystems, which operate far away from chemical equilibrium and convert one form of energy into another in a way analogous to the functioning of biological systems. Basically, these are molecular scale objects and devices that “do” things under consumption of energy. While this is common on the macrosopic scale, there are virtually no examples on the nanoscale outside biology. The main achievents of this project, so far, have been to establish a number of basic building blocks and strategies that will hopefully enable us in the second half of the project to get close to our goal.

This can be summarised by focussing on three areas of progress (a) synthesis, or, Ikebana Chemistry, (b) Ionic and electronic transport across membranes, and (c) advanced electron microscopy.

(a) Ikebana Chemistry is what we call our ability to arrange a number of chemical functionalities on one single nanoparticle pretty much like one would arrange a bunch of different flowers. WE have made significant progress and are now able to control the size, shape and multiple functionality of a gold nanoparticle to convey properties by design. This is of critical importance for the next steps, where gold nanoparticles become active agents in more complex assemblies of nanostructures.

(b) We have already achieved a small number of systems in which gold nanoparticles can transport ionic charge across membranes of vesicles and free-standing membranes. The mechanisms are new and intriguing, and we had to spent a lot of effort to elucidate them by optical methods. The next close goal is electron transport, and then coupling one type of transport with the other. This would be our first successful case of a really active non-biological nanostructure that can convert energy stored in chemical form.

(c) We have obtained spectacular images using a relatively new technique of electron microscopy, which does not require that the sample is under vacuum. This way we could image gold nanoparticles inside living cells, and we could also directly see how the structure of self-assembled thin films of gold nanoparticles changes upon drying and wetting. This structural change could be correlated with global changes in optical and electrical properties of these films. We expect that this so-called environmental electron microscopy will give future insight in operating active nanosystems.

In conclusion, we have established the key skill and knowledge within the group and the collaborative arrangements needed to deliver most parts of this high-risk programme.

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United Kingdom
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