Molecular metal Oxide nanoelectronics

Supplementary content information

prototype of 3d printer

Objectives

The researchers on the ‘Molecular Metal Oxide nanoelectronics’ programme grant at the University of Glasgow aimed to use the Creativity@home funding to plan the use of cheap and configurable robotics explore the digitization of chemical reactions and chemistry.

Activities

The group held a 3 day workshop on 3D printing within the first year of the grant. In the first two days, topics progressed from discussions on the background to the technical and chemical field in which the workshop was grounded to specific challenges and themes that arise from the development of 3D printing; they came up with the concept of reactionware (Nature chemistry paper published and patent pending). The final day was used as an information gathering session where results were collated and technical challenges, potential applications and next steps were identified.

Outcomes

‘Creativity@home has enabled us to open up a totally new platform for matter assembly using cheap robotics to control chemical synthesis (and exploiting nano-scale self-assembly), as well as engaging with a range of new researchers, application specialists. We went through a new type of practical creativity exercise and empowered young researchers to take the lead in proposing new ideas. The techniques allowed creative thinking that enabled very far reaching ideas to emerge without being killed too quickly. This led to the concept of ‘reactionware’ 3D printed reactors and a paper in Nature Chemistry (2012, 4, 349) and a patent application’ – Professor Lee Cronin (Principal Investigator).

One of the far reaching ideas described by Lee Cronin, to see how far the concept of digital chemistry could be pushed, was the idea of doing chemistry very far away e.g. in a remote location or even in space. CHEMOSPACE", which is currently under consideration by several organisations, would use configurable modular robotics for chemical synthesis to work towards the idea of a ‘zero-mass payload’. Getting into space is very expensive, and manned missions for example, to Mars) are going to require that general routes for producing things locally is going to be important. The idea will be to validate this idea by doing simple chemical reactions in space (low Earth orbit) and then extending this to a moon or planet in the solar system. The hope is that this will prove the possibility that modular robot (similar to a 3D printer) could be taken to Mars to access a vast range of chemicals, materials, devices (for example, drugs, polymers and functional materials). Lee Cronin hopes a proof of concept experiment will take off soon.

The workshop also led to the birth of a new world-wide network for material fabrication, through which researchers are now able to share collaboration ideas and discuss research developments.