Self building the tiniest conducting nanowire

Animation showing the molecular building blocks joining the tip of a growing self-assembling nanowire. Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

At the core of nanotechology is the capability of self construction. Researchers keep looking at ways to have molecules coming together spontaneously (or through a conducive ambient) to form desired architectures.

In Nature we have plenty of examples, crystals are an obvious one but also the tendency of our hair after a shower to get knotted. The challenge is to find ways for specific molecules to assemble in specific ways thus creating an object (or a material) with the desired characteristics.

At Stanford University, Department of Energy, researchers have found a way to self assemble molecules of carbon and hydrogen in such a way to create a nano-conducting wire, actually the smallest conducting wire developed so far.

These molecules, called diamantoids because they create sort of diamond structures  (look at the video), have been attached to one sulphur atom and placed into a liquid solution containing copper atoms. The sulphur atom attract the copper atom and sticks to the previous diamantoids cages creating a growing wire.

Researchers expect to see application of this discovery in areas like smart fabric to generate electricity (through a piezoelectric effect), superconductivity and in optoelectronics.  

As for many other news that I am reporting this is at the stage of lab experiment and it will take a while for an industrialised version to become available (if ever). Yet it is nice to see research in smart materials and nano-tech moving on!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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