Computer simulations done by researchers from the University of Michigan have shown that structures like sheets, wires and tubes can spontaneously assemble by starting with nanoparticles that have long, tether-like molecules attached, then breaking the tethers and nanoparticles apart.
This could result in a wider variety of self-assembled structures than currently available. These structures include spheres, rods, tubes, plates, tetrapods, and prisms. The technology could allow microscopic materials to manufactured molecule-by-molecule, resulting in better electronics, photonics, chemical and biological sensors and energy storage.
The method could be used within two to five years with the hurdle being how to attach the tethers. The shape of the self-assembled structures depends on the number and location of tethers.