Researchers Develop Atomic-Scale Electrical Wires

  • Jan 31 2017
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  • Category: News

What are the latest technological developments in the electronics sector?

A recent study in the journal Nature Materials reports that scientists at Stamford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed atomic-scale electrical wires that have a variety of potential commercial applications.

Comprised of miniscule bits of diamond known as diamondoids (tiny interlocking cages of carbon and hyrdogen that are found naturally in petroleum fluids) and chalcogenide (a chemical compound that is a combination of copper and sulfur), the wires are reported to be a mere three atoms wide.

“What we have shown here is that we can make tiny, conductive wires of the smallest possible size that essentially assemble themselves,” said Hao Yan, a Stanford postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper.

The innovation in this method is the creation of an actual nanowire with a solid crystalline core that has good electronic properties. The researchers made the new wires by assembling and fusing the atoms Lego style: the chalcogenide formed the conductive core while van der Waals forces among the diamondoids allowed them to naturally form the insulating shell. The new method allows these materials to be assembled with what the scientists called atom-by-atom precision and control.

“Their minuscule size is important because a material that exists in just one or two dimensions – as atomic-scale dots, wires or sheets – can have very different, extraordinary properties compared to the same material made in bulk,” said co-author Dr. Nicholas Melosh,

Thus far, diamondoids have been used to make one-dimensional nano-wires based on cadmium, zinc, iron, and silver. The scientists are conducting further experiments to understand the chemical reactions in other solvents and other such as carboranes.

The Takeaway

By developing wires on an atomic scale, scientists at Stanford believe there are a wide range of potential uses such as electricity generating fabrics, superconductors that do not lose electricity, or optoelectronic devices that utilize both electricity and light (think: LEDs).

In sum, the continuing development of nanowires and other micro-electronic components have far reaching commercial applications. As with any technological development, these innovations are valuable intellectual property that need to be protected which requires the advice and counsel of a leading IP law firm.