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Apr 02, 2017 11:11 AM EDT

Stanford University Unveils Diamondoids And Nanowires: The Ultimate Atomic Bling

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The smallest and thinnest wire today is only a few micrometers wide, about the width of a single strand of human hair. These wires are in almost all electronics used and are "printed" on circuit boards. Imagine for a moment a wire that is even thinner, at only three atoms wide, and is 1,000 times narrower than a human hair. That wire would have extraordinary properties.

Such a wire now exists thanks to the efforts of Jeremy Dahl of Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory by using the smallest and purest form of diamonds called diamondoids. He first isolated the molecules from crude oil in 2003.

The fascinating aspect of this research is that the nanowire assembles itself, by employing a chalcogenide for a superconducting core, made up of a combination of sulfur and copper it insulates itself by using diamondoids.

Its unique set of properties led the scientists to consider its use in various applications such as quantum computation. Its ability to self-assemble led to what the scientist call a diamondoid mechanosynthesis (DMS), which may render fabrication and placement of nanowires to be automated via computer control.

The DMS technology is still at its infancy stage; however, the scientists are continuing their experiments with the new material. Accordingly, they have already developed short-term applications for the molecule, while keeping an eye out for its long-term potential.

Hao Yan, a Stanford postdoctoral researcher and lead author of a study on chalcogenide, said that it is possible to fabricate tiny, conductive wires of the smallest possible size that assemble themselves. According to Yan, the process is a simple, one-pot synthesis.

He said it is as simple dumping all the ingredients together and then wait for the results to occur in half an hour. He adds further that it's as if the diamondoids know where they want to go. The microscopic particles are strongly attracted to each other that allow them to form clumps that are visible to the naked eye.

Diamondoid particles, each with sulfur and copper bonds, linked up making long thin chains that make up the nanowire. This method of self-assembly achieved a level of precision and control over the material at the microscopic level.

The study published in the journal Nature Materials stated its potential, which can lead to a wide range of applications such as fabrics that generate electricity, optoelectronic devices that use both light and electricity and its potential as a superconducting material that can conduct electricity without loss.

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