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What is a Nanowire?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois

A nanowire is a connecting structure that has a diameter of 10-9 meters (10-11) feet), which is extremely small. Also known as quantum wires, these connectors are used to connect tiny components together into very small circuits. These structures are no larger than a tenth of a nanometer wide. There is no restriction on how wide they can grown, but cannot grow more than a few nanometers in height.

There are four different types of nanowires: metallic, semi-conducting, insulating and molecular. Metal nanowires are made from nickel, platinum or gold. While semi-conducting wires are comprised of silicon, indium phosphide or gallium nitride and insulating are made of silicon dioxide or titanium dioxide. To create a molecular nanowire, the process involves repeating organic or inorganic molecular units in a particular format.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

Nanowires are experimental and are not available in commercial or industrial applications. The conductivity and tiny size make them ideal for future computer processors and connectors. Research is underway to use nanowires and related technology for use a photon ballistic wave lengths. This technology is a necessary stepping stone to the creating of molecular computer. The ability to transmit electrons across these connectors and to program a logic process is critical to the next stage of development.

There are several different techniques available to create a nanowire, but the most reliable technique is called the Vapor-Liquid-Solid (VLS) synthesis method. In this method, special particles or a gas like silane is used to create an environment to support the growth of a nanowire. This material is then exposed to gold nanocluster, which creates crystalline nanowire structures.

Only when the source material supersaturates the structure does a nanocluster grow. The relative length of the product is controlled through the management of the length of the exposure to the source. More exposure results in a longer structure. Inorganic nanowires, which are alternatively viewed as cluster polymers, are synthesized in a single-step vapor phase reaction at elevated temperature.

A nanowire can also be made using a top-down or bottom-up approach. In the top down approach, a block of the solid material that the nanowires will be made of is carved to produce the right size wire. The bottom up approach is more of an assembly process, where the nanowire is built by adding the core materials to the wire as it grows.

Scientists around the world are working on a faster and more efficient method to create a nanowire. The use of nanowire in a transistor is an ideal method of producing smaller and faster microprocessor components for the computer and electronic industry. Although nanowire transistors function better than the current transistors, the high costs required to create them is a barrier to wider manufacturing.

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Discussion Comments


Wow. I synthesize nanowires for my research, so I know a bit about their nucleation and growth processes. Not very difficult to be honest.

But the above description, although not entirely inaccurate, suggests the author really has at best a limited understanding of what nanowires are.

Perhaps reading a review by Charles Lieber, Peidong Yang, or another expert prior to attempting to write this page would have been helpful.

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