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Silver droplet with crystalline interior

Solid nanoparticles can be deformed like a liquid

MITSolid nanoparticles can be deformed like a liquidMIT

An unexpected recent discovery may affect technological developments in the future, for good or ill. Chinese and American researchers have discovered that solid nanoparticles of silver can be deformed like liquid droplets. However, the interior of these nanoparticles remains crystalline, stable, and unchanged as the exterior deforms. The outer layers move, but the inner atoms stay aligned like bricks in a wall. The experiments, published in the October 2014 issue of Nature Materials, were conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) using particles less than 10 nanometers in diameter. Nanoparticles are important in the design of metal contacts and electronic circuits. For these applications, it’s important that the particles retain a stable shape, but the recent discovery may compromise the proper functioning of electrical nanoconnections. In other future applications, the phenomenon may be advantageous for electrical circuits that require high mechanical strength at minuscule sizes, while retaining the ability to be deformed.