TEL AVIV, Israel Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a chain of amino acids called a peptide molecule that can self assemble into tiny tubes. The tubes were filled with silver to produce nanoscale wires.
The researchers claim this is the first time discrete and uniform nanowires have been synthesized that could eventually lead to silver nanowires being used in biosensors and circuits.
Ehud Gazit of the university's chemistry department studied beta-amyloid protein fibrils that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The proteins also accumulate in other parts of the body, causing type II
diabetes and prion diseases.
His research team mapped a tiny segment of the protein that mediates the process for the formation of brain plaque. The researchers found that the element created hollow tubes a few microns long.
"We were able to demonstrate that a peptide as short as a dipeptide... contains all of the molecular information needed to mediate events of molecular recognition and self-assembly," Gazit said.
By putting hollow tubes in a solution with silver ions, they produced silver-stuffed nanotubes. When the peptide tubes were dissolved with an enzyme, the end result was silver nanowires.
Added Gazit: "Such nanowires should have ample applications in molecular electronics and other nanotechnological uses."
The researchers plan to use peptide nanotubes to cast other conducting, semiconducting and magnetic materials into nanorods and nanowires, and to integrate the tubes into nanoelectronic, nanophotonic and microelectromechanical systems. Another focus for future research is evaluating the potential use of the tubes as field emitters.