Researchers at Vanderbilt University have created nanowires that are 1/1,000th the width of the microscopic wires used today to connect transistors in integrated computer chips. Just three atoms wide, the tiny metallic wires could eventually enable scientists to create paper-thin, flexible tablets and smartphones.
Junhao Lin, a doctoral student and visiting scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, made the nanowires using semiconducting materials that naturally form layers one molecule thick.
Scientists have used transition-metal dichalcogenides to build an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice of atoms that has exhibited several important properties such as electricity, strength, and heat conduction, and researchers have created functioning transistors and flash memory gates out of the material.
The new nanowires are not built as standalone wires. Lin used a finely focused beam of electrons to build the nanowires into the honeycomb lattice, along with the transistors and gates. It is all built as one thin, flexible material.
"Looking to the future, we can create a flexible two-dimensional material," says Vanderbilt professor Sokrates Pantelides. "You could potentially have screens or pages that are flexible like a sheet of paper. You might be able to fold them and then open them up to see the screen."
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