A new type of nanoparticle that resembles the six-pointed Star of David, a Jewish symbol which appears on the flag of Israel, has been discovered by researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The Hebrew University team, headed by researcher Uri Banin, said the star-shaped nanoparticles have a unique, cage-like structure. The discovery is described in an article in the October 2010 issue of the journal Nature Materials.
The particles, which are some 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, may prove useful in applications ranging from the development of new ways to sense glucose in diagnosing diabetes to serving as photo-catalysts for turning solar energy into clean fuel, the university said.
“Exploration into the possible applications for the nano Stars of David has just begun, and already they have shown that they are not just beautiful; the composition and the unique cage shape makes them useful,” the university said in an e-mailed statement.
The Hebrew University team has been working on developing new nanoparticles made of two kinds of materials joined together. Until now, scientists had only been aware of nanoparticles in which one material encapsulates the other, resembling an egg and a yolk, or where an island of one material forms on the other, much like the head of the match on a matchstick, the university said in the statement.
The Star of Davids are “nano-cages,” with hexagonal crystals, each with a tiny metal frame wrapping around them and “encasing them like a bird cage, but 100 million times smaller,” according to the statement. The cage structure has never been observed in hybrid nanoparticles before.