Carving at the nanoscale

A common theme in nanoscience research is the recycling of “old” processes and protocols that were once applied crudely on bulk materials in trades and industrial settings, but which can now be applied to nano-sized structures with high precision and resolution using newly available instruments and know-how.

After several years of research, scientists of the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology (ICN), Dr. Edgar Emir González (currently at Instituto Geofísico Universidad Javeriana y Universidad Santo Tomás) and ICREA Prof. Victor Puntes of in collaboration with ICREA Prof. Jordi Arbiol of the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC), have refined methods based on traditional corrosion techniques (the Kirkendall effect and galvanic, pitting, etching and de-alloying corrosion processes). They show that these methods, which are far more aggressive at the nanoscale than in bulk materials due to the higher surface area of nanostructures, provide interesting pathways for the production of new and exotic materials.

By making simple changes in the chemical environment it is possible to tightly control the reaction and diffusion processes at room temperatures, allowing for high yields and high consistency in form and structure. This should make the processes particularly attractive for commercial applications as they are easily adapted to industrial scales.

A wide range of structures can be formed, including open boxes, bimetallic and trimetallic double-walled open boxes with pores, multiwalled/multichamber boxes, double-walled, porous and multichamber nanotubes, nanoframes, noble metal fullerenes, and others.

Asides from their intrinsic beauty, such nanostructures present new options for drug delivery, catalysis, remediation of contaminants and even structural components for nanoscale robots.

The paper has been published at Science.

“Carving at the Nanoscale: Sequential Galvanic Exchange and Kirkendall Growth at Room Temperature”
Edgar Gonzàlez 1,2*, Jordi Arbiol 3,4, Victor Puntes 1,2,4,5+

1 Institut Català de Nanotecnologia (ICN), Campus de la UAB, 08193, Bellaterra, Spain.; 2 Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Campus de la UAB, 08193, Bellaterra ,Spain; 3 Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC), Campus de la UAB, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.; 4 Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Passeig Lluís Companys, 23, 08010 Barcelona, Spain; 5 Centre d`Investigacions en Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia CIN2 (ICN-CSIC), Campus UAB, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.

* Present address: Secciòn de Nanociencia y Nanotecnologia Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 110231 Bogotá Colombia. Universidad Santo Tomas, Bogotá Colombia.

DOI: doi/10.1126/science.1212822.

For more information, please contact: Prof. Dr. Victor F. Puntes –


The Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology (ICN) is a private foundation created in 2003 and forms part of CERCA, the Network of Research Centers launched by the Catalan Government as a key plank of the long-term strategy to foster the development of a knowledge-based economy. The ICN´s multicultural team of scientists, representing over 20 nationalities, aims to produce cutting-edge science and develop next-generation technologies by investigating the new properties of matter that arise from the fascinating behavior at the nanoscale.

Research is devoted on one side to the study and understanding of fundamental physical phenomena associated to state variables (electrons, spin, phonons, photons, plasmons, etc.), the investigation of new properties derived from tailored nanostructures, and the opening of new routes and fabrication processes for the conception of new nanodevices.

On the other side, researchers also explore the state of aggregation at the nanometric scale, the development of nanoproduction methods, synthesis, analysis, and manipulation of aggregates and structures of nanometric dimension, and the development of techniques for characterizing and manipulating nanostructures.

These lead to commercially relevant studies such as the functionalization of nanoparticles, the encapsulation of active agents, novel drugs and vaccines, new nanodevices and nanosensors, with applications in health, food, energy, environment, etc.

The Institute actively promotes collaboration among scientists from diverse areas of specialization (physics, chemistry, biology, engineering), and trains new generations of scientists, offering studentships, doctoral and post-doctoral positions.

More information:

Institut Catala de Nanotecnologia
Tel: 34-93-581-4408, Email:, Web:

Principal Researcher: Dr. Victor F. Puntes, ICREA Prof. and Inorganic

Nanoparticles Group Leader at ICN —

Communication Dept.: Ana de la Osa,

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