Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Striped nanowires shrink electronics


Multi-flavoured nanowires can act as miniature bar-codes, diodes and light sources

Wires one-millionth of a millimetre wide change composition along their length.

Wires one-millionth of a millimetre wide that change chemical composition along their length, just as fruit pastilles change flavour along a packet, have been grown in the United States. These multi-flavoured nanowires can act as miniature bar-codes, diodes and light sources.

Conventional microelectronics components are etched into flat layers of semiconducting material. Charles Lieber and colleagues at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, grow their wires - smaller than the thinnest wire on a commercial silicon chip - from vapours of the atomic ingredients.

Lieber’s group perfected their method for making semiconductor nanowires two years ago. They use a tiny blob of a catalyst, which stays at the growing tip of the wire like the point of a pencil tracing out a line. The size of the catalyst particle controls the wire’s width.

Now the researchers report that, by choosing their catalyst carefully - they use gold nanocrystals - they can grow sequential lengths of a single wire from different chemicals1. They use a laser to blast a semiconductor into a vapour, which then condenses into nanowires. Exposing the growing wires first to one kind of vapour and then to another varies the composition along the wire.

Superlattice lines up

The team has made wires about 20 nanometres across that contain alternating sections of the semiconductors gallium arsenide and gallium phosphide. Microelectronic engineers often use structures like this, called superlattices, in electronic devices. They are currently made by carving up flat sandwiches of layered semiconductors.

Superlattices are used, for example, as mirrors in microscopic lasers, or as waveguides to capture and confine light. If electrons are trapped in a thin layer of a semiconductor sandwiched between barriers of a different semiconductor, quantum wells are created that emit light. The colour of the light can be tuned by varying the well thickness.

Nanowire superlattices could be used in all these applications. Their size means that many more could be packed onto a single chip than today’s microelectronics components. The researchers envisage making nanowire lasers, for example.

Up the junction

To demonstrate the wires’ potential, Lieber’s group made structures called p-n junctions. They grew silicon nanowires in two sections, each spiced with a different additive to fine-tune the electrical behaviour of the silicon. These nanowire p-n junctions behave like diodes - they let current flow in only one direction.

The team also made p-n junctions that act as light-emitting diodes. Because these glowing devices are so small, the researchers hope to make them expel light one photon at a time. This could be useful in a new type of ultra-powerful information processing called quantum computing.


  1. Gudiksen, M. S., Lauhon, L. J., Wang, J., Smith, D. C. & Lieber, C. M. Growth of nanowire superlattice structures for nanoscale photonics and electronics. Nature, 415, 617 - 620, (2002).

PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality
19.10.2016 | University of Waterloo

nachricht Quantum computers: 10-fold boost in stability achieved
18.10.2016 | University of New South Wales

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>