Study results could one day inform the design of new materials for protective gear, energy-harvesting devices and more
Helmets that do a better job of preventing concussions and other brain injuries. Earphones that protect people from damaging noises. Devices that convert “junk” energy from airport runway vibrations into usable power.
New research on the events that occur when tiny specks of matter called nanoparticles smash into each other could one day inform the development of such technologies.
Using supercomputers, scientists led by the University at Buffalo modeled what happens when two nanoparticles collide in a vacuum. The team ran simulations for nanoparticles with three different surface geometries: those that are largely circular (with smooth exteriors); those with crystal facets; and those that possess sharp edges.
“Our goal was to lay out the forces that control energy transport at the nanoscale,” says study co-author Surajit Sen, PhD, professor of physics in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences. “When you have a tiny particle that’s 10, 20 or 50 atoms across, does it still behave the same way as larger particles, or grains? That’s the guts of the question we asked.”
“The guts of the answer,” Sen adds, “is yes and no.”