Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New twist on nanowires: Technology can control composition and structure of these tiny wires as they grow

Date:
February 22, 2012
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Nanowires -- microscopic fibers that can be "grown" in the lab -- are a hot research topic today, with a variety of potential applications including light-emitting diodes and sensors. Now, researchers has found a way of precisely controlling the width and composition of these tiny strands as they grow, making it possible to grow complex structures that are optimally designed for particular applications.

Nanowires fabricated using the new techniques developed by Silvija Grade ak and her team can have varying widths, profiles and composition along their lengths, as illustrated here, where different colors are used to indicate compositional variations.
Credit: Image courtesy of the Gradečak laboratory

Nanowires -- microscopic fibers that can be "grown" in the lab -- are a hot research topic today, with a variety of potential applications including light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and sensors. Now, a team of MIT researchers has found a way of precisely controlling the width and composition of these tiny strands as they grow, making it possible to grow complex structures that are optimally designed for particular applications.

The results are described in a new paper authored by MIT assistant professor of materials science and engineering Silvija Gradečak and her team, published in the journal Nano Letters.

Nanowires have been of great interest because structures with such tiny dimensions -- typically just a few tens of nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter -- can have very different properties than the same materials have in their larger form. That's in part because at such minuscule scales, quantum confinement effects -- based on the behavior of electrons and phonons within the material -- begin to play a significant role in the material's behavior, which can affect how it conducts electricity and heat or interacts with light.

In addition, because nanowires have an especially large amount of surface area in relation to their volume, they are particularly well-suited for use as sensors, Gradečak says.

Her team was able to control and vary both the size and composition of individual wires as they grew. Nanowires are grown by using "seed" particles, metal nanoparticles that determine the size and composition of the nanowire. By adjusting the amount of gases used in growing the nanowires, Gradečak and her team were able to control the size and composition of the seed particles and, therefore, the nanowires as they grew. "We're able to control both of these properties simultaneously," she says. While the researchers carried out their nanowire-growth experiments with indium nitride and indium gallium nitride, they say the same technique could be applied to a variety of different materials.

These nanowires are far too small to see with the naked eye, but the team was able to observe them using electron microscopy, making adjustments to the growth process based on what they learned about the growth patterns. Using a process called electron tomography, they were able to reconstruct the three-dimensional shape of individual nanoscale wires. In a related study recently published in the journal Nanoscale, the team also used a unique electron-microscopy technique called cathodoluminescence to observe what wavelengths of light are emitted from different regions of individual nanowires.

Precisely structured nanowires could facilitate a new generation of semiconductor devices, Gradečak says. Such control of nanowire geometry and composition could enable devices with better functionality than conventional thin-film devices made of the same materials, she says.

One likely application of the materials developed by Gradečak and her team is in LED light bulbs, which have far greater durability and are more energy-efficient than other lighting alternatives. The most important colors of light to produce from LEDs are in the blue and ultraviolet range; zinc oxide and gallium nitride nanowires produced by the MIT group can potentially produce these colors very efficiently and at low cost, she says.

While LED light bulbs are available today, they are relatively expensive. "For everyday applications, the high cost is a barrier," Gradečak says. One big advantage of this new approach is that it could enable the use of much less expensive substrate materials -- a major part of the cost of such devices, which today typically use sapphire or silicon carbide substrates. The nanowire devices have the potential to be more efficient as well, she says.

Such nanowires could also find applications in solar-energy collectors for lower-cost solar panels. Being able to control the shape and composition of the wires as they grow could make it possible to produce very efficient collectors: The individual wires form defect-free single crystals, reducing the energy lost due to flaws in the structure of conventional solar cells. And by controlling the exact dimensions of the nanowires, it's possible to control which wavelengths of light they are "tuned" to, either for producing light in an LED or for collecting light in a solar panel.

Complex structures made of nanowires with varying diameters could also be useful in new thermoelectric devices to capture waste heat and turn it into useful electric power. By varying the composition and diameter of the wires along their length, it's possible to produce wires that conduct electricity well but heat poorly -- a combination that is hard to achieve in most materials, but is key to efficient thermoelectric generating systems.

The nanowires can be produced using tools already in use by the semiconductor industry, so the devices should be relatively easy to gear up for mass production, the team says.

Zhong Lin Wang, the Regents' Professor and Hightower Chair in Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says that being able to control the structure and composition of nanowires is "vitally important for controlling their nanoscale properties. The fine-tuning in the growth behavior" of these materials "opens the possibility for fabricating new optoelectronic devices that are likely to have superior performance."

In addition to Gradečak, the Nano Letters paper was co-authored by MIT graduate student Sam Crawford, Sung Keun Lim PhD '11 and researcher Georg Haberfehlner of the research and technology organization CEA-Leti in Grenoble, France. The Nanoscale paper was co-authored by MIT graduate student Xiang Zhou, Megan Brewster PhD '11 and postdoc Ming-Yen Lu. The work was supported by the MIT Center for Excitonics, the U.S. Department of Energy, the MIT-France MISTI program and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sung Keun Lim, Sam Crawford, Georg Haberfehlner, Silvija Gradečak. Controlled Modulation of Diameter and Composition along Individual III–V Nitride Nanowires. Nano Letters, 2012; 120214141302006 DOI: 10.1021/nl300121p

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "New twist on nanowires: Technology can control composition and structure of these tiny wires as they grow." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222094244.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2012, February 22). New twist on nanowires: Technology can control composition and structure of these tiny wires as they grow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222094244.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "New twist on nanowires: Technology can control composition and structure of these tiny wires as they grow." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222094244.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 24, 2014) General Electric keeps quiet on reports it's in talks to buy French turbine and train maker Alstom. Ivor Bennett reports on what could be an embarrassing rumour for the French government, with business-friendly reforms proving a hard sell. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama briefly played soccer with a robot during his visit to Japan on Thursday. The President has been emphasizing technology along with security concerns during his visit. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama spoke with student innovators in Japan and urged them to take part in increased opportunities for student exchanges with the US. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins