Our vision for the NSF Center for Single-Entity Nanochemistry and Nanocrystal Design is to address one of the biggest challenges in nanocrystal chemistry – the inherent heterogeneity of nanocrystals – by creating the scientific toolkit and chemical knowledge to separate individual nanocrystal responses from bulk property measurements. This research is supported by the NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation Program Grant #2221062 from the Division of Chemistry.
Nanocrystals are a driver of innovation because they display properties distinct from their bulk form. For example, bulk gold appears a lustrous yellow, but gold nanocrystals can appear nearly any color depending on their specific size and shape. However, the way in which nanocrystals are made introduces variations from one crystal to the next in the same sample, meaning that each one may have different properties. This heterogeneity provides ample opportunity to discover new nanocrystals with useful properties. On the other hand, this heterogeneity makes the discovery of the nanocrystals with exceptional properties incredibly challenging, similar to finding the needle in a haystack.
Conceptually, this challenge is similar to the screening challenge in the field of drug discovery and design, where there is a large experimental space from which a led drug has to be identified. CSENND is inspired by the conceptual similarities and is creating the tools to accelerate the discovery and design of nanocrystals with exceptional properties and aims to transform the way the chemical community handles nanocrystal heterogeneity. For Phase 1 of CSENND, these efforts will be directed toward nanocrystals for catalysis and chemical sensing.