My watch list  

Molecular multitools

Researchers develop method to structure surfaces using visible light



Schematic illustration of the visible-light-controlled reconfigurable surface functions. Ruthenium-complexes act as a molecular screwdriver, and thioethers with different functional groups act as molecular bits.

The functionalization of surfaces with different physical or chemical properties is a key challenge for many applications. For example, the defined structuring of a surface with hydrophobic and hydrophilic areas can be used for the separation of emulsions, like water and oil. However, the creation of user-defined surface properties is a challenge. Researches from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz (MPI-P), the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei and the University of Electronic Science and Technology in Chengdu (China) have now developed surfaces that can easily be patterned with different functionalities using visible light.

The international team of researchers created surfaces which are coated with a molecule which has a Ruthenium-atom in its center. This molecule-complex, which is permanently attached to the surface, acts as a molecular screwdriver: “You can think of this molecule as a screwdriver, and we can attach different bits – that means molecules allowing different functionalities like wettability – to this screwdriver”, says Prof. Dr. Si Wu, group leader at the MPI-P (department of Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Butt).

The attachment of such bits – here, so called thioether groups, organic molecules containing a sulfur atom – has so far been performed by chemical bonds which could not be released easily. In the past, the surface functionalities could only be removed using complicated chemical removal methods, which often destroyed not only the thioether, but also the Ruthenium complexes. In their work, the researchers showed that their molecules allow the removal of the “bits” – that means the thioether groups – by using visible light. “This is of great importance if we think of using biomolecules at the surface, which can easily be destroyed by using UV light. So in our experiment, we use visible light, which has less energy and thus doesn’t destroy biomolecules”, says Wu.

With their method, it is possible to structure surfaces in an easy way. In the dark, the whole surface area is functionalized with a desired molecule, giving for example the possibility to create hydrophobic areas. The surface is then illuminated through a shadow mask with light – this cleaves the bond between the Ruthenium complex attached to the surface and the functional thioether group. After washing the surface, the functional groups are removed at the illuminated surface areas, leaving only the non-illuminated parts.

As the Ruthenium complex is not washed away, it stays on the surface and can then – after washing – be used again to attach another bit. Thus, the surface is reconfigurable multiple times.

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • surface functionalization
  • surface structures
  • ruthenium
More about MPI für Polymerforschung
  • News

    Goodbye, silicon?

    Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking thos ... more

    What happens in a solar cell when the lights go out?

    What happens in a solar cell when the lights go out depends heavily on the material being used. In conventional silicon solar cells the answer is quite simple: the electrical current produced by the cell immediately goes to zero. It is different in so-called perovskite solar cells where the ... more

    Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

    Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for light detectors can offer significant improvements with respect to materials being used nowadays. For example, graphene can detect l ... more

More about Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  • News

    Simulating nature’s cosmic laboratory, one helium droplet at a time

    Two astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and from the University of Jena have found an elegant new method to measure the energy of simple chemical reactions, under similar conditions as those encountered by atoms and molecules in the early solar system. Their method promi ... more

    Turning a molecule into a coherent two-level quantum system

    Organic dye molecules are commonly known from color pigments or from fluorescence microscopy in biology. Although as any other molecule, they are fundamentally quantum mechanical objects made of a small number of atoms, they are usually not associated with quantum technologies, not even wit ... more

    New material for chemistry text books

    Even the well-known can sometimes surprise. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3), also known colloquially as lime or chalk, is a mineral that has already been thoroughly analysed by chemists. But chemistry books, in which it is listed as occurring in five different crystal structures, now need to be a ... more

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE