Chemists create multiple Death Stars, Dark Side rejoices

A Spanish research team has created not just one Death Star — but an army of them. Unfortunately for the Dark Side, these Death Stars are nano-sized.

With a diameter of less than 500 nm, there was no way to equip each chemical Death Star with a precise, planet-destroying laser. Instead, researchers packed the core of their tiny silicon oxide Death Stars with even tinier Clone Troopers (platinum nanoparticles). The only weapon these Clone Troopers have at their disposal are electrons, which they'll use to reduce metals that get too close to the Death Star.

To test these Death Stars, researchers brought in Rebel Alliance fighters (nickel ions). The Rebel Alliance took a hit. Clone Trooper platinum nanoparticles reduced Rebel fighter nickel ions to metallic nickel, which was assimilated into the Death Stars. The assimilated metallic nickel gave the Death Stars magnetic properties and additional reactivity. Victory: Dark Side!

Researchers also showed that their nanoreactors can be modified for use in a in a variety of chemical environments, and adjusted to reduce metals other than nickel. Customized Death Stars!

Chemists create multiple Death Stars, Dark Side rejoices

Customization means a variety of compounds (e.g. drugs, other nanomaterials) could be fabricated with these Death Stars, researcher Dr. Miquel Correa-Duarte tells io9.

Customization also means the Dark Side can go green. These Death Stars can be modified to work in plain old water, which is considered a "green" solvent. "The ability to produce materials using environmental friendly solvents, such as water, is nowadays a big issue," explains Dr. Correa-Duarte, an associate professor at the Universidade de Vigo.

But don't let all this talk of eco-friendly Death Stars put you off. Future construction of these technological terrors will involve lasers.

Dr. Correa-Duarte and colleagues are building plasmonic nanoreactors. This version of the Death Stars contains a core that, when hit with an infrared (IR) laser, heats up. "In heating just the hollow cavity of the reactor, we can produce chemical reactions that without heat would not be possible," says Dr. Correa-Duarte. What's even cooler (or hotter) is that while heating the core, the solution the nanoreactors are inside of remains at room temperature. Oh, and these plasmonic Death Stars also work as sensors, monitoring the formation of compounds inside them.

Now if only these Death Stars were 280,000,000,000 times bigger...

Image: Back cover art for Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 51: 3976, permission for use granted by John Wiley and Sons.

[via Angewandte Chemie International Edition]