Liveblogging the Foresight Conference. Today is the last day of the research sessions, and Teri Odom of Northwestern just overwhelmed us with a quick summary of her work, both bottom-up and top-down. Normally I am a bottom-up fan, but I especially like her work using lithography to make pyramidal nanoparticles. Basically you make a layer with holes in it, etch away some material underneath (which if you use crystalline material will be a pyramidal hole, not round), then evaporate another material into the hole — maybe multiple layers, then etch away more material to free the nanopyramid shapes now sitting at the bottom of the holes.
Why do we care? You have probably read of the nanoshell work for imaging and treating cancer. This would enable a much wider variety of nanoparticles useable for this purpose, with much better control of size. Teri does not regard this work as the most intellectually challenging of all her projects (her interests are broad), but it could be very useful for medical and other applications. It does lead one to ask, why did it take a chemist to do this? Why didn’t the people who use these tools all the time think of making these shapes?—Christine