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Nanotechnology is a fast growing field; engineering matters at the nano-meter scale. A key nanomaterial is nanoparticles (NPs). These sub-wavelength (< 100nm) particles provide tremendous possibilities due to their unique electrical, optical, and mechanical properties. Plethora of NPs with various chemical composition, size and shape has been synthesized. Clever designs of sub-wavelength structures enable observation of unusual properties of materials, and have led to new areas of research such as metamaterials. This dissertation describes two self-assemblies of gold nanoparticles, leading to an ultra-soft thin film and multi-functional single electron device at room temperature. First, the layer-by-layer self-assembly of 10nm Au nanoparticles and polyelectrolytes is shown to behave like a cellular-foam with modulus below 100 kPa. As a result, the composite thin film (~ 100nm) is 5 orders of magnitude softer than an equally thin typical polymer film. The thin film can be compressed reversibly to 60% strain. The extraordinarily low modulus and high compressibility are advantageous in pressure sensing applications. The unique mechanical properties of the composite film lead to development of an ultra-sensitive tactile imaging device capable of screening for breast cancer. On par with human finger sensitivity, the tactile device can detect a 5mm imbedded object up to 20mm below the surface with low background noise. The second device is based on a one-dimensional (1-D) self-directed self-assembly of Au NPs mediated by dielectric materials. Depending on the coverage density of the Au NPs assembly deposited on the device, electronic emission was observed at ultra-low bias of 40V, leading to low-power plasma generation in air at atmospheric pressure. Light emitted from the plasma is apparent to the naked eyes. Similarly, 1-D self-assembly of Au NPs mediated by iron oxide was fabricated and exhibits ferro-magnetic behavior. The multi-functional 1-D self-assembly of Au NPs has great potential in modern electronics such as solid state lighting, plasma-based nanoelectronics, and memory devices.
Adviser: Ravi F. Saraf