A solid material in the form of wire with diameter smaller than about 100 nm or in other words a diameter of 10-9 meters (10-11) feet, is called as a nanowire. It is a connecting structure which is extremely small. Tiny components are connected together into a very small circuit using these connectors. Nanowires is also known as quantum wires. There is no restriction on how wide they can grow, but cannot grow more than a few nanometers in height.
Various classes of nanowires are present that include a metallic (e.g. Ni, Pt, Au), semiconducting (e.g. InP, Si, GaN, etc.) and insulating (e.g., SiO2, TiO2). Molecular nanowires are composed of repeating molecular units either organic or inorganic. Suspension and deposition are two processes in nanotechnology by which nanowires can be manufactured.
What makes nanowires interesting?
There are various properties that make the nanowires interesting and a few of them are listed below:
- Electronic & optical properties: Nanowires are considered as the most confining electrical conductors. They are defect free.
- Mechanical properties: Nanowires exhibit ideal strength.
- Thermal properties: Nanowires can be designed to conduct heat substantially better than nearly every bulk material.
- Chemical properties: Dominated by large surface-to-volume ratio.
Types Of Nanowires
There are 4 different types of nanowires available. There are listed below:
- Metallic: Metallic nanowires are made from Platinum, Gold or Nickel.
- Semi-conducting: This type of nanowire comprises of Silicon, Indium phosphide or Gallium Nitride.
- Insulating: It is made up of Silicon Dioxide ot Titanium dioxide.
- Molecular: This type involves repeating organic or inorganic molecular units in a particular format.
To create a nanowire, there are various techniques, but out of all the options, the most reliable technique is called the Vapour-Liquid-Solid (VLS) synthesis method. In this technique or method, special particles or a gas like silane is used to create an environment to support the growth of a nanowire. This material is then exposed to gold nanocluster, which creates crystalline nanowire structures.
Another approach to create a nanowire is by suing a top-down or bottom-up method. In the top down approach, a block of the solid material that the nanowires will be made of is carved to produce the right size wire. The bottom up approach is more of an assembly process, where the nanowire is built by adding the core materials to the wire as it grows.
Applications of Nanowires
For many novel applications, nanowires are promising materials. They possess unique geometry and unique physical properties such as:
The field in which the nanowire is used majorly in electronics. Few of the nanowires are very good conductor or semi-conductors and due to their tiny size they could fit millions more transistors on a single microprocessor. As a result, computer speed would increase greatly. With the advancement in technology, the nanoscientists could create nanowires that generate electricity from kinetic energy. This was made possible using piezoelectric material. One of the methods to produce low cost flexible solar panels is by using light absorbing nanowires embedded in a flexible polymer film.
In the field of quantum computers, nanowires may play an important role. Due to the proximity effect, nanowires also become superconductors. Nanowires play a major part in nano-size devices like nanorobots. In the medical field, nanorobot is used by the medical experts for the treatment of diseases like cancer. There are a few nanorobot designs that have on-board power systems that would require structures like nanowires to generate and conduct power.
In the field of medicine, nanowires have been used to coat titanium implants. It has been discovered by the doctors that muscle tissue, sometimes doesn't adhere well to titanium, but when it's coated with the nanowires, the tissue can anchor itself to the implant thus reducing the risk of implant failure.
Nanowire finds great application in the environment. Silver chloride nanowires is used as a photocatalyst to decompose organic molecules in polluted water. Electrified filter that is composed of silver nanowires, carbon nanotubes and cotton is used to kill bacteria in water. Nanowire mats are used to absorb oil spills.
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