A discovery in the field of nano liquids it could shake our understanding of molecular behavior at the smallest scales. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School (EPFL, in Switzerland) and the University of Manchester (UK) have discovered a previously hidden world with the help of fluorescent properties New discoveries of a 2D material similar to graphene: the boron nitride.
The team features in this week’s magazine natural materials an innovative method that makes it possible track individual molecules within Nanofluidic Structureswhich illuminates his appearance like never before.
The nanofluidic, the study of liquids in extremely small spaces, allows us to understand how liquids behave at the nanometer scale. However, studying the motion of single molecules in such small environments has been challenging due to the very large environmental conditions Limits of microscopy techniques conventional. This obstacle prevented detection and real-time imaging, and left significant gaps in knowledge of limited molecular properties.
But thanks to an unexpected feature of boron nitrideThe authors have achieved what was previously thought impossible. This 2D material has a remarkable ability to do this emit light when in contact with liquidsBy exploiting this property, it was possible to directly observe and track the trajectories of individual molecules within nanofluidic structures.
New way to deal with nanofluids
According to the researchers, this breakthrough opens the door to a deeper understanding of the behavior of ions and other substances in Conditions that mimic biological systems.
The teacher Alexandra RadenovicDirector of the EPFL Laboratory of Nanoscale Biology, explains: “Advances in manufacturing and materials science have enabled us to control liquid and ion transport at the nanoscale. However, our understanding of nanofluidic systems remained uncertain.” This was limited because conventional light microscopy was unable to penetrate structures below the so-called diffraction limit. Our research now sheds light on the darkness and offers insights into a previously unexplored area.”
Our research sheds light and offers insights into a previously unexplored area
This new knowledge about molecular properties has interesting applicationssuch as the possibility of directly imaging emerging nanofluidic systems in which fluids exhibit unconventional behavior under stress or pressure stimuli.
Boron nitride monophoton emitter
Specifically, research focuses on the fluorescence they cause single photon emitter on a surface of hex boron nitride. “This activation of the fluorescence was unexpected because neither the nitride nor the liquid itself fluoresces in the visible range. This is most likely due to the interaction of the molecules with the.” crystal surface defectsbut we still don’t know what the exact mechanism is,” explains co-author Nathan Ronceray the EPFL.
Fluorescence can arise from the interaction of molecules with surface defects in the crystal structure. Knocking out a defect will turn on its neighbor by jumping over the molecule, allowing you to follow its trajectory
Surface defects can be missing atoms in the crystal structure, whose properties differ from the original material, giving them the ability to emit light when interacting with certain molecules. The researchers also observed that when a defect is turned off, one of its neighbors lights up because the molecule bound at the first site jumps to the second. This allows for step-by-step reconstruction full molecular pathways.
Through a Combination of microscopy techniquesThe team monitored the color changes and showed that these light emitters sequentially release photons, providing precise information about their immediate surroundings at a space of about one nanometer. This advance allows these emitters to be used as nanoscale probesand provide information about the arrangement of molecules in confined nanometer spaces.
On the other side the group of professors Radha Boya, from the Manchester Physics Department, produced the nanochannels of two-dimensional materials that confine liquids to a few nanometers from the surface of hexagonal boron nitride. This collaboration made it possible to visually test and discover these systems Notes on liquid regulation caused by imprisonment.
“Seeing is believing, but observing the effects of confinement on this scale is not easy. We make these extremely fine slit-shaped channels, and the current study shows an elegant way to visualize them using high-resolution microscopy,” said Boya.
Seeing is believing, but observing the impact of lockdown on this scale is not easy. We make these channels extremely fine, and the study shows an elegant way to visualize them with high-resolution microscopy.
The potential of it Discovery is powerful, according to the authors. Ronceray even sees applications beyond passive detection: “We mainly observed the behavior of molecules with the nitride without actively interacting, but we think it could be used to visualize nanoscale flows induced by pressure or electric fields .”
This could lead to more dynamic applications in the future new optical imaging and detection systemswhich offers unprecedented insights into the complex behavior of molecules in these confined spaces.
“Liquid-activated quantum emission from pure hexagonal boron nitride for nanofluidic sensing”. natural materials2023