Engineers have figured out how to make rounded crystals with no facets, a design that mimics the hard-to-duplicate texture of starfish shells. The discovery could one day lead to 3-D-printed medications that absorb better into the body.
Both the crystals’ shape and the way they’re made—using organic vapor jet printing—have other promising applications, researchers say. The geometry could potentially be useful to guide light in advanced LEDs, solar cells, and nonreflective surfaces.
“We call them nanolobes. They look like little hot air balloons that are rising from the surface,” says Olga Shalev, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering at University of Michigan. The nanoscale shapes are made out of boron subphthalocyanine chloride, a material often used in organic solar cells.
It’s in a family of small molecular compounds that tend to make either flat films or faceted crystals with sharp edges, says Max Shtein, associate professor of materials science and engineering, macromolecular science, and engineering, chemical engineering, and art and design. … (Read more)