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Faceting ionic shells into icosahedra via electrostatic (Image 1)

Simulated shapes constructed from dozens of charged, closely packed particles

These simulated shapes are constructed from dozens of charged, closely packed particles, models that are helping researchers better understand how some viruses are constructed and guiding the design of new materials. The research, from the laboratory of Monica Olvera de la Cruz of Northwestern University, shows how one might create icosahedral (20-sided) shapes that lack icosahedral symmetry, a property that could ease the construction of self-assembling, complex molecules. In this image, red balls have an ionic charge of +3, while blue balls have a charge of -1. The interaction of the charges effects the smoothness of the shape. The image on the left is a sphere, the image on the right is an icosahedron, familiar to fans of role-playing games as the shape of the 20-sided die. [See related image Here.]

More about this image
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (grants EEC 06-47560 and DMR 04-14446).

To learn more, see the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences story Mutant chronicles--the quest for a better red-fluorescent protein. (Date image taken: 2007; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: May 30, 2018)

Credit: G. Vernizzi and M. Olvera de la Cruz, "Faceting ionic shells into icosahedra via electrostatics," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 104 (47) 18382-86 (2007) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0703431104
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