Just how universal is the helix?

By | September 7, 2014

Just how universal is the helix?

Here is a very interesting discovery: under certain conditions, mini ‘iron filings’ (or more accurately, magnetite nanocrystals) line up to form helix shaped structures.

Perhaps the most well known helix is the double helix of DNA. But a helix also emerges when you take a strand and keep twisting one end until a spiral appears. This same shape strengthens twine, common thread, yarns, steel cables, and almost every sort of rope available – a rather sturdy structure that provides strength.

I wonder what sort of applications may arise from being able to cause helical nanostructure formations on demand. It is certainly an interesting discovery and the follow up results and applications will be interesting to watch.

/Via +Betsy McCall

Magnetic nanocubes self-assemble into helical superstructures | (e) Science News
Materials made from nanoparticles hold promise for myriad applications, from improved solar energy production to perfect touch screens. The challenge in creating these wonder-materials is organizing the nanoparticles into orderly arrangements.

2 thoughts on “Just how universal is the helix?

  1. Sophie Wrobel

    +Richard Healy that sounds like a great potential application. The problem though is that the helix is not exc kursive left or right, so you would have to seed it to get consistent cloth.

    Another application that i find exciting is that these are nanostructures. Which means we dont have to assemble in advance but can also deliver first to the needed location such as in a patients body, and then build what you need there.

    Reply
  2. Richard Healy

    One idea that comes to mind are layers of carbon fiber cloth impregnated with a solution of suitably dimensioned helices in epoxy. The helices first tangle up in the fabric and bond the two layers. Then in the presence of a magnetic field the helices squeeze out the extra epoxy as they self assemble and tighten.

    The epoxy can be recovered somehow or captured in a sacrificial layer which is removed before the part goes into service.

    In this way you can lessen the need for presses and molds during manufacture and move construction to on-site rather than in factory.

    Reply

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