Stanford University Researchers Create Tiny, Self-Assembling Wires


Stanford University researchers and the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were recently able to create tiny wires that are able to assemble by themselves. The wire is made up of diamonds, copper and sulfur.

Quartz reported that these nanometer-scale wires would help shrink electronic circuits even more. With this, it would be possible to cram more computing power to smaller devices - much smaller than what we have now.

The researchers used molecule-sized diamond fragments, attached them to sulfur atoms and dropped them into a solution containing copper atoms. This resulted to a wire three atoms across protected by diamonds.

Moreover, it was noted that the wire appeared to have assembled itself like Legos. The study was published in the journal "Nature Materials" on Monday.

While self-assembly has long been known to be possible for organic, such as carbon-based, molecules, this study is interesting since it uses inorganic chemicals. The study also proves that atom-scale structures can be created.

According to Engadget, the process only took half an hour for the wires to be created. Other benefits to this newly discovered method is that the diamondoids' attractive properties give scientists the chance to create the tiny wires with high precision.

It was noted that the researchers can construct the wire per atom. Stanford graduate student Fei Hua Li, one of the researchers, clarified that the wires only fit together in specific ways in accordance to their size and shape.

The copper and sulfur atoms make up the inside of the wires, forming its conductive core. The diamonoids, on the other hand, went to the outer part of the wires and formed as its insulating shell.

Forbes posted an animation, courtesy of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, of how the wire appeared to have formed itself. Apparently, the researchers began with the diamonoids.

These are described as single cages that have just 10 carbon atoms. Attached to each diamonoid is a single sulfur atom. In the solution, the sulfur atoms bond to copper ions and move toward the top of the nanowire due to van der Waals forces.

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