A team from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the University of Sheffield and Xi’an Jiaotong University discovered an unusual semi-crystal. It has a double-sided honeycomb structure never seen before. Until now, similar quasicrystals were only known to come in solid, not liquid form. The team presents its results in the journal Nature’s chemistry.
Quasicrystals have a special structure. They have a regular pattern similar to ordinary crystals, however, in regular crystals, the arrangement of the individual components is repeated over and over at regular intervals. In the case of quasicrystals, the components do not fit together in such a periodic pattern. This special structure gives them special properties that regular crystals don’t have.
The newly discovered quasiprystal has a dodecahedron, which in turn consists of a mixture of triangular, square and, for the first time, trapezoidal cells. These are created from the self-assembly of “T-shaped” molecules. “We’ve detected a perfectly ordered liquid quasiprystal. Such a material has never been seen before,” says chemist Professor Karsten Chersk at MLU.
The team’s latest study also provides new insights into the formation of these special structures. Until now, the stability of quasicrystals was assumed to be based on an entropy gain resulting from breaking of the strict periodic tessellation rules. However, our results suggest that, in this case, the stability may be due to energy reduction in the idealized quasicrystal arrangement, Tschierske adds.
According to the researcher, the potential applications of these new liquid crystals are promising. For example, they could be used in the future to produce self-assembled and self-healing materials that can be applied in optics and electronics, as they have the potential to create new ways to manipulate light and charge carriers.
Xiangbing Zeng et al, a columnar liquid semi-crystal with honeycomb structure consisting of triangular, square and trapezoidal cells, Nature’s chemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41557-023-01166-5
Provided by Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
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