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Dec 31, 2016 04:04 AM EST

Researchers Use Smallest Diamonds Like Lego To Make The World's Tiniest Wires [Video]

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Researchers and scientists have found a way to use the smallest bits of diamond called diamondoids to assemble the tiniest and thinnest electrical wires just three atoms wide.
(Photo : (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images))

Researchers and scientists have found a way to use the smallest bits of diamond called diamondoids to assemble the tiniest and thinnest electrical wires just three atoms wide.

Scientists at Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory reported that the minuscule wires that they say essentially assemble themselves. Grabbing various types of atoms and putting them together like LEGO could potentially be used to manufacture conductive wires that can be used in a wide array of application.

Applications for the new discovery could be used in weaving fabrics that have the capacity to generate electricity, optoelectronic devices that utilize light and electricity, as well as superconducting materials that can conduct electricity without loss. The scientists reported their findings in Nature Materials.

According to Hao Yan, a Stanford postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper, the process is a simple, one-pot synthesis. The process involves dumping the ingredients together and then wait for results in 30 minutes. Yao says it is as if the diamonoids know where they want to go, according to SLAC.

Each block of the formed structure contains a diamonoid, attached to sulfur and copper atoms. The researchers describe the structure as single cages containing just 10 carbon atoms having a single atom attached to each. In a solution, sulfur atoms bond to a singular copper ion and due to van der Waals forces, they are then attracted to the top of the growing nanowires.

Stanford graduate student, Fei Hua Li, likened the structures to miniature LEGO blocks that can only fit together in certain ways as determined by their size and shape. Accordingly, the copper and sulfur atoms wound up in the middle thereby forming the conductive core of the wire. The diamonoids wound up on the outside that becomes the wire's insulating outer shell, Forbes reported.

The new process allows for assembling the materials with atom-by-atom control and precision with the diamonoids reportedly act as interlocking cages of carbon and hydrogen. The process continues until the nanowires grew large enough to be observed without the aid of a microscope.

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