SAN FRANCISOResearchers at Boston College say they have produced a flexible webbing of nano-scale wires that may eventually be used in electronics and energy harvesting.
A team of researchers led by assistant professor of chemistry Dunwei Wang reported growing wires from titanium and silicon into a two-dimensional network of branches that resemble flat, rectangular netting.
According to Wang, these "nanonets" are extremely thin but maintain complexity and are capable of efficiently carrying an electrical charge.
"This is pretty much the ultimate challenge in controlling crystal growth," Wang said. The structure is two-dimensional and achieves very limited growth in both directions, he said.
The researchers reported that the nanonets grew spontaneously from the bottom-up through simple chemical reactions, unprovoked by a catalyst.
Working in two dimensions, Wang's teamincluding post doctoral researcher Xiaohua Liu and graduate students Sa Zhou and Yongjing Linproduced a web that under a microscope resembles a tree with all branches growing in the same perpendicular direction from the trunk. Wang said basic nano structures are typically created in zero or one dimension.
Wang and his team report on their accomplishment in the international edition of the German Chemical Society journal Angewandte Chemie.
Wang described the structure his team grew as one homogenous single crystalline material with many fine features that provide a high amount of surface area. The nanonets can be used for electronics because the creation of nano-scale wires is far beyond what can be achieved with photolithography, he said.
Wang said the material showed very good electrical conductivity through high quality connections of the nanonet. Titanium disilicide has been proven to absorb light across a range of the solar spectrum, is easily obtained, and is inexpensive, Wang said.
Wang's team is focusing research for the time being on energy-harvesting applications. The goal is to utilize the high conductivity of the structure and put another layer of material around it to absorb light and allow those electrons to be carried away very efficiently by the nanonets, he said.
The team plans to stick with titanium and silicon because they are both abundant and relatively inexpensive elements, Wang said.
"If you you want to develop sustainable energy you need to use materials that are common to scale it up to meet the so-called terawatts challenge," he said.
The team has already submitted a second manuscript for publication detailing further study of the nanonets and expects it to be published in roughly four months, Wang said.
Access to the full paper produced by Wang's team can be purchased here.