Making a big impact in the world of nanotechnology

La Trobe researchers are creating molecular nanostructures by designing molecules that stick together like a self-assembling molecular LEGO system

In the seemingly small world of molecular nanostructures, pioneering research led by Professor Adam Mechler is having a big impact.

Molecular nanostructures are molecules that have been organised and arranged at the extremely small nanoscale to have unique chemical properties and functions.

“Chemistry is a field where there are endless opportunities to create something new, and in this particular case, we are designing a platform technology for the creation of complex nanostructure systems that no one has done before,” says Professor Mechler.

Nanostructures can be engineered for a wide array of applications across a range of industries, highlighting the far-reaching impact of research in this field.

Professor Mechler creates molecular nanostructures by designing molecules that stick together like a self-assembling molecular LEGO system.

"We have discovered that by using helix-shaped units as molecular LEGO bricks we can connect these bricks end-to-end to create nanorods – a tiny rod  that can be one thousand times thinner than a hair, and which can have specific chemical functions,” Professor Mechler explains.

“In our latest work, we have shown that we can connect these rods using a process called metal coordination, forming ultra-thin two-dimensional sheets with a clear and organized internal structure, all in a thickness less than a nanometre."

This discovery has opened the door to exciting possibilities and applications.

“Our findings offer the potential to revolutionise the design of surface coatings, particularly for the aerospace industry,” says Professor Mechler.

“One notable application includes the development of radiation-reflecting, antistatic, self-healing layers designed to safeguard satellites from the harsh and destructive conditions of outer space."