AN ENTIRELY new generation of powerful ultra-small computers and electronics devices is one step closer, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
The two groups have succeeded independently in making lattices that they say will for the first time enable nanowires to be constructed with otherwise incompatible materials.
Such mixed bundles are essential to making electronic and other devices on a smaller scale.
This is a major advancement in the field of one-dimensional nanostructure research. The impact could be tremendous.
Based on the findings of both research groups, tiny components known as nanowires, that meld together a variety of materials, could soon be routinely and cheaply built using little more than a special mixture of gases deposited on a foundation material.
The report by the U.S. team of three researchers details how they successfully fabricated `superlattice' nanowire, so named because the nanowire's cylinder-shaped nanoscopic bundle interweaves substances with different compositions and properties.
As a result, well-defined junctions and interfaces with potentially important functionalities were incorporated within individual nanowires.
Those working in field of nanotechnology have long sought such a means to bring together materials on the nanoscopic scale that otherwise would be structurally incompatible.
Like conventional builders who rely on a mix of concrete, wood, metals, plastics and paints to construct comfortable and energy-efficient homes and offices nanoengineers, by mixing and matching different elements, hope to create entirely new classes of nanoscale products or systems that would revolutionise everything from energy production to manufacturing and assembly.
In the field of electronics and optics, mastery of these nanoscale `heterostructures' should lead to devices too small to see with the naked eye, but equal to or better than today's hand-size electronics.
Today's personal computers rely on a series of small junctions that connect components that have properties necessary for proper functioning.
Given the laws of physics and real-world manufacturing demands, radically scaling down such functionality is difficult. The research findings in California and Sweden promise to make ultra-small-scale devices practical.
`Growing' a nanowire can be done either with vapour deposition from stockpile of speciality gases, or with a laser aimed at a target material to produce a specific vapour, or both.
Single nanowires can control current flow, emit light, process or store information or dissipate heat but at extremely small scale.
Nanowire production is both rapid and economical. In just one hour, millions of nanowires can be made at minimal expense, the report added. PTI
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