First Place - Andrew Mannix

Graduate Student, Department of Materials Science and Engineering

“Tryptophan Labyrinth”

Molecular self-assembly is the process by which molecules come together to form structures, arrangements and shapes without any outside guidance or interference. Scientists can learn a lot about the inherent properties of molecules by studying how they self-assemble.

In this image, molecules of L-Tryptophan (L-Trp), a biologically necessary amino acid, have self-assembled into rows on the surface of a copper single crystal. The orange section of the crystal is elevated higher than the purple section, indicated by the change in color.

Thus far, Mannix and his colleagues in the Hersam Laboratory at Northwestern University and the Guisinger Laboratory at Argonne National Laboratory have found that L-Trp is the only amino acid to form a maze-like structure. The ordered channels formed by the maze are potentially useful as a template to direct the motion and interaction of other molecules on the surface.

Technique: Scanning tunneling microscopy, computer rendition

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