For the first time, scientists and engineers have observed in real time how two types of nanoparticles made from different materials combine into new composite materials. The findings, reported by a team led by the University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan, could help engineers have more control over the assembly of materials that combine the desirable properties of each particle—such as photoluminescence, magnetism and the ability to conduct electricity.

"We are designing new materials that combine different kinds of functions in ways that are not possible with the materials we have today," said Sharon Glotzer, the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan and co-corresponding author of the study published in Nature Synthesis.

The are a type of binary nanocrystal superlattice and could be used for electronic devices, optical devices, and energy production and storage.

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