Emergence of Liquid Metals in Nanotechnology
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- Emergence of Liquid Metals in Nanotechnology
- Kalantar-Zadeh, Kourosh; Tang, Jianbo; Daeneke, Torben; O'Mullane, Anthony P.; Stewart, Logan A.; Liu, Jing; Majidi, Carmel; Ruoff, Rodney S.; Weiss, Paul S.; Dickey, Michael D.
- Issue Date
- AMER CHEMICAL SOC
- ACS NANO, v.13, no.7, pp.7388 - 7395
- Bulk liquid metals have prospective applications as soft and fluid electrical and thermal conductors in electronic and optical devices, composites, microfluidics, robotics, and metallurgy with unique opportunities for processing, chemistry, and function. Yet liquid metals' great potential in nanotechnology remains in its infancy. Although work to date focuses primarily on Ga, Hg, and their alloys, to expand the field, we define "liquid metals" as metals and alloys with melting points (mp) up to 330 degrees C, readily accessible and processable even using household kitchen appliances. Such a definition encompasses a family of metals-including the majority of post-transition metals and Zn group elements (excluding Zn itself)-with remarkable versatility in chemistry, physics, and engineering. These liquid alloys can create metallic compounds of different morphologies, compositions, and properties, thereby enabling control over nanoscale phenomena. In addition, the presence of electronic and ionic "pools" within the bulk of liquid metals, as well as deviation from classical metallurgy on the surfaces of liquid metals, provides opportunities for gaining new capabilities in nanotechnology. For example, the bulk and surfaces of liquid metals can be used as reaction media for creating and manipulating nanomaterials, promoting reactions, or controlling crystallization of dissolved species. Interestingly, liquid metals have enormous surface tensions, yet the tension can be tuned electrically over a wide range or modified via surface species, such as the native oxides. The ability to control the interfacial tension allows these liquids to be readily reduced in size to the nanoscale. The liquid nature of such nanoparticles enables shape-reconfigurable structures, the creation of soft metallic nanocomposites, and the dissolution or dispersion of other materials within (or on) the metal to produce multiphasic or heterostructure particles. This Perspective highlights the salient features of these materials and seeks to raise awareness of future opportunities to understand and to utilize liquid metals for nanotechnology.
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