A multilayered crystal of vanadium selenide, seen in a field of view roughly as wide as a red blood cell: after enough copper atoms penetrate the uppermost layers of the crystal, a hexagonal network of nanofold tubes appears spontaneously, each tube 30 nanometers across and enclosing an empty space 4 nanometers high.
There are many practical questions as well. Surface nanotube networks suggest numerous applications, including networks of pipes for the storage and transport of minute quantities of materials, or templates for the fabrication of nanowire networks.
"There are many exciting follow-ups to investigate in these systems," says Dahmen, "ranging from whether and how the tubes can be filled with liquids or with metal atoms to form wires, to controlling the sizes and patterns of the networks, to understanding the atomic structure of their junctions."
In previous self-assembly research..there was progress made on targeted self-assembly. Possibly these capabilities could be combined.
Success in nanoscale self-assembly could make the transition to MNT easier by allowing more complex structures to be self assembled and less mechanochemistry to be required to "finish" a MNT product. More capability could be available sooner. If there was a progression in the number of mechanochemistry operations per second that are performed by a particular system or device, then by shifting more operations to more capable self-assembly the threshold for useful mechanochemisty would be reduced and the sooner MNT would be useful.