Crystal cracks nurture nanowires

July 30/August 6, 2003

One key to making nanoscale electronics is finding microscopic materials that are easy to work with. Ready-made components are even better.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan have devised a way to form titanium nanowires within an intentionally flawed sapphire.

The method can potentially yield large amounts of nanowires, according to the researchers. The nanowires conduct electricity and the sapphire is an insulator, giving the package the potential to be a ready-made electrical network.

To produce the nanowires, the researchers heated the crystal to a high temperature to cause deformations, or lines where the lattice structure of the crystal was dislocated. Then they added a film of titanium to the crystal and heated it again, causing the titanium atoms to migrate to the dislocation lines, creating wires about five nanometers in diameter. A row of 10 hydrogen atoms spans a nanometer.

The technique can be used to create nanowires within many types of crystal, according to the researchers.

The method could be used for practical applications within five years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the June 15, 2003 issue of Nature Materials.

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