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1.  Physics, chemistry and biology of functional nanostructures 
PMCID: PMC3557603  PMID: 23365797
2.  Energy-related nanomaterials 
PMCID: PMC3817629  PMID: 24205463
energy related; nanomaterials
3.  Cyclic photochemical re-growth of gold nanoparticles: Overcoming the mask-erosion limit during reactive ion etching on the nanoscale 
The basic idea of using hexagonally ordered arrays of Au nanoparticles (NP) on top of a given substrate as a mask for the subsequent anisotropic etching in order to fabricate correspondingly ordered arrays of nanopillars meets two serious obstacles: The position of the NP may change during the etching process and, thus, the primary pattern of the mask deteriorates or is completely lost. Furthermore, the NP are significantly eroded during etching and, consequently, the achievable pillar height is strongly restricted. The present work presents approaches on how to get around both problems. For this purpose, arrays of Au NPs (starting diameter 12 nm) are deposited on top of silica substrates by applying diblock copolymer micelle nanolithography (BCML). It is demonstrated that evaporated octadecyltrimethoxysilane (OTMS) layers act as stabilizer on the NP position, which allows for an increase of their size up to 50 nm by an electroless photochemical process. In this way, ordered arrays of silica nanopillars are obtained with maximum heights of 270 nm and aspect ratios of 5:1. Alternatively, the NP position can be fixed by a short etching step with negligible mask erosion followed by cycles of growing and reactive ion etching (RIE). In that case, each cycle is started by photochemically re-growing the Au NP mask and thereby completely compensating for the erosion due to the previous cycle. As a result of this mask repair method, arrays of silica nanopillar with heights up to 680 nm and aspect ratios of 10:1 are fabricated. Based on the given recipes, the approach can be applied to a variety of materials like silicon, silicon oxide, and silicon nitride.
PMCID: PMC3869346  PMID: 24367758
Au nanoparticles; block copolymer micellar lithography; photochemical growth; reactive ion etching; self-assembly
4.  Structural and thermoelectric properties of TMGa3 (TM = Fe, Co) thin films 
Based on chemically synthesized powders of FeGa3, CoGa3, as well as of a Fe0.75Co0.25Ga3 solid solution, thin films (typical thickness 40 nm) were fabricated by flash evaporation onto various substrates held at ambient temperature. In this way, the chemical composition of the powders could be transferred one-to-one to the films as demonstrated by Rutherford backscattering experiments. The relatively low deposition temperature necessary for conserving the composition leads, however, to ‘X-ray amorphous’ film structures with immediate consequences on their transport properties: A practically temperature-independent electrical resistivity of ρ = 200 μΩ·cm for CoGa3 and an electrical resistivity of about 600 μΩ·cm with a small negative temperature dependence for FeGa3. The observed values and temperature dependencies are typical of high-resistivity metallic glasses. This is especially surprising in the case of FeGa3, which as crystalline bulk material exhibits a semiconducting behavior, though with a small gap of 0.3 eV. Also the thermoelectric performance complies with that of metallic glasses: Small negative Seebeck coefficients of the order of −6 μV/K at 300 K with almost linear temperature dependence in the range 10 K ≤ T ≤ 300 K.
PMCID: PMC3740773  PMID: 23946915
amorphous metal films; energy related; intermetallic compounds; nanomaterials; Seebeck coefficient; thermoelectric properties; thin metal films
5.  Near-field effects and energy transfer in hybrid metal-oxide nanostructures 
One of the big challenges of the 21st century is the utilization of nanotechnology for energy technology. Nanoscale structures may provide novel functionality, which has been demonstrated most convincingly by successful applications such as dye-sensitized solar cells introduced by M. Grätzel. Applications in energy technology are based on the transfer and conversion of energy. Following the example of photosynthesis, this requires a combination of light harvesting, transfer of energy to a reaction center, and conversion to other forms of energy by charge separation and transfer. This may be achieved by utilizing hybrid nanostructures, which combine metallic and nonmetallic components. Metallic nanostructures can interact strongly with light. Plasmonic excitations of such structures can cause local enhancement of the electrical field, which has been utilized in spectroscopy for many years. On the other hand, the excited states in metallic structures decay over very short lifetimes. Longer lifetimes of excited states occur in nonmetallic nanostructures, which makes them attractive for further energy transfer before recombination or relaxation sets in. Therefore, the combination of metallic nanostructures with nonmetallic materials is of great interest. We report investigations of hybrid nanostructured model systems that consist of a combination of metallic nanoantennas (fabricated by nanosphere lithography, NSL) and oxide nanoparticles. The oxide particles were doped with rare-earth (RE) ions, which show a large shift between absorption and emission wavelengths, allowing us to investigate the energy-transfer processes in detail. The main focus is on TiO2 nanoparticles doped with Eu3+, since the material is interesting for applications such as the generation of hydrogen by photocatalytic splitting of water molecules. We use high-resolution techniques such as confocal fluorescence microscopy for the investigation of energy-transfer processes. The experiments are supported by simulations of the electromagnetic field enhancement in the vicinity of well-defined nanoantennas. The results show that the presence of the nanoparticle layer can modify the field enhancement significantly. In addition, we find that the fluorescent intensities observed in the experiments are affected by agglomeration of the nanoparticles. In order to further elucidate the possible influence of agglomeration and quenching effects in the vicinity of the nanoantennas, we have used a commercial organic pigment containing Eu, which exhibits an extremely narrow particle size distribution and no significant agglomeration. We demonstrate that quenching of the Eu fluorescence can be suppressed by covering the nanoantennas with a 10 nm thick SiOx layer.
PMCID: PMC3678447  PMID: 23766954
confocal microscopy; energy transfer; field enhancement; light harvesting; luminescence; nano-antennas; nanosphere lithography; nanostructures; plasmonics; simulation; TiO2 nanoparticles
6.  Tuning the properties of magnetic thin films by interaction with periodic nanostructures 
The most important limitation for a significant increase of the areal storage density in magnetic recording is the superparamagnetic effect. Below a critical grain size of the used CoCrPt exchange-decoupled granular films the information cannot be stored for a reasonable time (typically ten years) due to thermal fluctuations arbitrary flipping of the magnetization direction. An alternative approach that may provide higher storage densities is the use of so-called percolated media, in which defect structures are imprinted in an exchange-coupled magnetic film. Such percolated magnetic films are investigated in the present work. We employ preparation routes that are based on (i) self-assembly of Au nanoparticles and (ii) homogeneous size-reduction of self-assembled polystyrene particles. On such non-close-packed nanostructures thin Fe films or Co/Pt multilayers are grown with in-plane and out-of-plane easy axis of magnetization. The impact of the particles on the magnetic switching behavior is measured by both integral magnetometry and magnetic microscopy techniques. We observe enhanced coercive fields while the switching field distribution is broadened compared to thin-film reference samples. It appears possible to tailor the magnetic domain sizes down to the width of an unperturbed domain wall in a continuous film, and moreover, we observe pinning and nucleation at or close to the imprinted defect structures.
PMCID: PMC3557708  PMID: 23365796
colloidal lithography; magnetic data storage; magnetic nanostructures; percolated films
7.  Controlled positioning of nanoparticles on a micrometer scale 
For many applications it is desirable to have nanoparticles positioned on top of a given substrate well separated from each other and arranged in arrays of a certain geometry. For this purpose, a method is introduced combining the bottom-up self-organization of precursor-loaded micelles providing Au nanoparticles (NPs), with top-down electron-beam lithography. As an example, 13 nm Au NPs are arranged in a square array with interparticle distances >1 µm on top of Si substrates. By using these NPs as masks for a subsequent reactive ion etching, the square pattern is transferred into Si as a corresponding array of nanopillars.
PMCID: PMC3512126  PMID: 23213640
electron beam lithography; nanoparticles; positioning; self-assembling; unconventional lithography
8.  Organic–inorganic nanosystems 
PMCID: PMC3190607  PMID: 22003443
9.  STM study on the self-assembly of oligothiophene-based organic semiconductors 
The self-assembly properties of a series of functionalized regioregular oligo(3-alkylthiophenes) were investigated by using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) at the liquid–solid interface under ambient conditions. The characteristics of the 2-D crystals formed on the (0001) plane of highly ordered pyrolitic graphite (HOPG) strongly depend on the length of the π-conjugated oligomer backbone, on the functional groups attached to it, and on the alkyl substitution pattern on the individual thiophene units. Theoretical calculations were performed to analyze the geometry and electronic density of the molecular orbitals as well as to analyze the intermolecular interactions, in order to obtain models of the 2-D molecular ordering on the substrate.
PMCID: PMC3257505  PMID: 22259763
2-D crystals; functionalized oligothiophenes; H-bonding; intermolecular interaction; scanning tunneling microscopy
10.  Deconvolution of the density of states of tip and sample through constant-current tunneling spectroscopy 
We introduce a scheme to obtain the deconvolved density of states (DOS) of the tip and sample, from scanning tunneling spectra determined in the constant-current mode (z–V spectroscopy). The scheme is based on the validity of the Wentzel–Kramers–Brillouin (WKB) approximation and the trapezoidal approximation of the electron potential within the tunneling barrier. In a numerical treatment of z–V spectroscopy, we first analyze how the position and amplitude of characteristic DOS features change depending on parameters such as the energy position, width, barrier height, and the tip–sample separation. Then it is shown that the deconvolution scheme is capable of recovering the original DOS of tip and sample with an accuracy of better than 97% within the one-dimensional WKB approximation. Application of the deconvolution scheme to experimental data obtained on Nb(110) reveals a convergent behavior, providing separately the DOS of both sample and tip. In detail, however, there are systematic quantitative deviations between the DOS results based on z–V data and those based on I–V data. This points to an inconsistency between the assumed and the actual transmission probability function. Indeed, the experimentally determined differential barrier height still clearly deviates from that derived from the deconvolved DOS. Thus, the present progress in developing a reliable deconvolution scheme shifts the focus towards how to access the actual transmission probability function.
PMCID: PMC3190630  PMID: 22003466
deconvolution; Nb DOS; STM; STS
11.  Terthiophene on Au(111): A scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy study 
Terthiophene (3T) molecules adsorbed on herringbone (HB) reconstructed Au(111) surfaces in the low coverage regime were investigated by means of low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and spectroscopy (STS) under ultra-high vacuum conditions. The 3T molecules adsorb preferentially in fcc regions of the HB reconstruction with their longer axis oriented perpendicular to the soliton walls of the HB and at maximum mutual separation. The latter observation points to a repulsive interaction between molecules probably due to parallel electrical dipoles formed during adsorption. Constant-separation (I-V) and constant-current (z-V) STS clearly reveal the highest occupied (HOMO) and lowest unoccupied (LUMO) molecular orbitals, which are found at −1.2 eV and +2.3 eV, respectively. The HOMO–LUMO gap corresponds to that of a free molecule, indicating a rather weak interaction between 3T and Au(111). According to conductivity maps, the HOMO and LUMO are inhomogeneously distributed over the adsorbed 3T, with the HOMO being located at the ends of the linear molecule, and the LUMO symmetrically with respect to the longer axis of the molecule at the center of its flanks. Analysis of spectroscopic data reveals details of the contrast mechanism of 3T/Au(111) in STM. For that, the Shockley-like surface state of Au(111) plays an essential role and appears shifted outwards from the surface in the presence of the molecule. As a consequence, the molecule can be imaged even at a tunneling bias within its HOMO–LUMO gap. A more quantitative analysis of this detail resolves a previous discrepancy between the fairly small apparent STM height of 3T molecules (1.4–2.0 nm, depending on tunneling bias) and a corresponding larger value of 3.5 nm based on X-ray standing wave analysis. An additionally observed linear decrease of the differential tunneling barrier at positive bias when determined on top of a 3T molecule is compared to the bias independent barrier obtained on bare Au(111) surfaces. This striking difference of the barrier behavior with and without adsorbed molecules is interpreted as indicating an adsorption-induced dimensionality transition of the involved tunneling processes.
PMCID: PMC3190626  PMID: 22003462
Au(111); electronic density of states; STM; STS; terthiophene
12.  Nanoscaled alloy formation from self-assembled elemental Co nanoparticles on top of Pt films 
The thermally activated formation of nanoscale CoPt alloys was investigated, after deposition of self-assembled Co nanoparticles on textured Pt(111) and epitaxial Pt(100) films on MgO(100) and SrTiO3(100) substrates, respectively. For this purpose, metallic Co nanoparticles (diameter 7 nm) were prepared with a spacing of 100 nm by deposition of precursor-loaded reverse micelles, subsequent plasma etching and reduction on flat Pt surfaces. The samples were then annealed at successively higher temperatures under a H2 atmosphere, and the resulting variations of their structure, morphology and magnetic properties were characterized. We observed pronounced differences in the diffusion and alloying of Co nanoparticles on Pt films with different orientations and microstructures. On textured Pt(111) films exhibiting grain sizes (20–30 nm) smaller than the particle spacing (100 nm), the formation of local nanoalloys at the surface is strongly suppressed and Co incorporation into the film via grain boundaries is favoured. In contrast, due to the absence of grain boundaries on high quality epitaxial Pt(100) films with micron-sized grains, local alloying at the film surface was established. Signatures of alloy formation were evident from magnetic investigations. Upon annealing to temperatures up to 380 °C, we found an increase both of the coercive field and of the Co orbital magnetic moment, indicating the formation of a CoPt phase with strongly increased magnetic anisotropy compared to pure Co. At higher temperatures, however, the Co atoms diffuse into a nearby surface region where Pt-rich compounds are formed, as shown by element-specific microscopy.
PMCID: PMC3190617  PMID: 22003453
alloy; Co; CoPt; epitaxy; HRTEM; magnetometry; nanoparticles; Pt; XMCD
13.  Platinum nanoparticles from size adjusted functional colloidal particles generated by a seeded emulsion polymerization process 
The benefits of miniemulsion and emulsion polymerization are combined in a seeded emulsion polymerization process with functional seed particles synthesized by miniemulsion polymerization. A systematic study on the influence of different reaction parameters on the reaction pathway is conducted, including variations of the amount of monomer fed, the ratio of initiator to monomer and the choice of surfactant and composition of the continuous phase. Critical parameters affecting the control of the reaction are determined. If carefully controlled, the seeded emulsion polymerization with functional seed particles yields monodisperse particles with adjustable size and functionalities. Size-adjusted platinum-acetylacetonate containing latex particles with identical seed particles and varied shell thicknesses are used to produce arrays of highly ordered platinum nanoparticles with different interparticle distances but identical particle sizes. For that, a self-assembled monolayer of functional colloids is prepared on a solid substrate and subsequently treated by oxygen plasma processing in order to remove the organic constituents. This step, however, leads to a saturated state of a residual mix of materials. In order to determine parameters influencing this saturation state, the type of surfactant, the amount of precursor loading and the size of the colloids are varied. By short annealing at high temperatures platinum nanoparticles are generated from the saturated state particles. Typically, the present fabrication method delivers a maximum interparticle distance of about 260 nm for well-defined crystalline platinum nanoparticles limited by deformation processes due to softening of the organic material during the plasma applications.
PMCID: PMC3190616  PMID: 22003452
colloid lithography; functional colloids; miniemulsion polymerization; nanoparticles; seeded emulsion polymerization
14.  Plasmonic nanostructures fabricated using nanosphere-lithography, soft-lithography and plasma etching 
We present two routes for the fabrication of plasmonic structures based on nanosphere lithography templates. One route makes use of soft-lithography to obtain arrays of epoxy resin hemispheres, which, in a second step, can be coated by metal films. The second uses the hexagonal array of triangular structures, obtained by evaporation of a metal film on top of colloidal crystals, as a mask for reactive ion etching (RIE) of the substrate. In this way, the triangular patterns of the mask are transferred to the substrate through etched triangular pillars. Making an epoxy resin cast of the pillars, coated with metal films, allows us to invert the structure and obtain arrays of triangular holes within the metal. Both fabrication methods illustrate the preparation of large arrays of nanocavities within metal films at low cost.
Gold films of different thicknesses were evaporated on top of hemispherical structures of epoxy resin with different radii, and the reflectance and transmittance were measured for optical wavelengths. Experimental results show that the reflectivity of coated hemispheres is lower than that of coated polystyrene spheres of the same size, for certain wavelength bands. The spectral position of these bands correlates with the size of the hemispheres. In contrast, etched structures on quartz coated with gold films exhibit low reflectance and transmittance values for all wavelengths measured. Low transmittance and reflectance indicate high absorbance, which can be utilized in experiments requiring light confinement.
PMCID: PMC3190615  PMID: 22003451
nanosphere-lithography; near-field enhancement; plasma etching; soft-lithography; surface plasmons
15.  Effect of large mechanical stress on the magnetic properties of embedded Fe nanoparticles 
Magnetic nanoparticles are promising candidates for next generation high density magnetic data storage devices. Data storage requires precise control of the magnetic properties of materials, in which the magnetic anisotropy plays a dominant role. Since the total magneto-crystalline anisotropy energy scales with the particle volume, the storage density in media composed of individual nanoparticles is limited by the onset of superparamagnetism. One solution to overcome this limitation is the use of materials with extremely large magneto-crystalline anisotropy. In this article, we follow an alternative approach by using magneto-elastic interactions to tailor the total effective magnetic anisotropy of the nanoparticles. By applying large biaxial stress to nanoparticles embedded in a non-magnetic film, it is demonstrated that a significant modification of the magnetic properties can be achieved. The stress is applied to the nanoparticles through expansion of the substrate during hydrogen loading. Experimental evidence for stress induced magnetic effects is presented based on temperature-dependent magnetization curves of superparamagnetic Fe particles. The results show the potential of the approach for adjusting the magnetic properties of nanoparticles, which is essential for application in future data storage media.
PMCID: PMC3148048  PMID: 21977439
hydrogen in metals; magnetic anisotropy; magnetic data storage; magneto-elastic interactions; nanoparticles; superparamagnetism; thin films
16.  Preparation and characterization of supported magnetic nanoparticles prepared by reverse micelles 
Monatomic (Fe, Co) and bimetallic (FePt and CoPt) nanoparticles were prepared by exploiting the self-organization of precursor loaded reverse micelles. Achievements and limitations of the preparation approach are critically discussed. We show that self-assembled metallic nanoparticles can be prepared with diameters d = 2–12 nm and interparticle distances D = 20–140 nm on various substrates. Structural, electronic and magnetic properties of the particle arrays were characterized by several techniques to give a comprehensive view of the high quality of the method. For Co nanoparticles, it is demonstrated that magnetostatic interactions can be neglected for distances which are at least 6 times larger than the particle diameter. Focus is placed on FePt alloy nanoparticles which show a huge magnetic anisotropy in the L10 phase, however, this is still less by a factor of 3–4 when compared to the anisotropy of the bulk counterpart. A similar observation was also found for CoPt nanoparticles (NPs). These results are related to imperfect crystal structures as revealed by HRTEM as well as to compositional distributions of the prepared particles. Interestingly, the results demonstrate that the averaged effective magnetic anisotropy of FePt nanoparticles does not strongly depend on size. Consequently, magnetization stability should scale linearly with the volume of the NPs and give rise to a critical value for stability at ambient temperature. Indeed, for diameters above 6 nm such stability is observed for the current FePt and CoPt NPs. Finally, the long-term conservation of nanoparticles by Au photoseeding is presented.
PMCID: PMC3045932  PMID: 21977392
Co; CoPt; core–shell particles; FePt; magnetic anisotropy; magnetic particles; plasma etching; reverse micelles; self-assembly

Results 1-17 (17)