A Harvard University team has successfully applied a film of nanowires on glass and plastic. This might lead to better and flexible displays or wearable computers, says the American Chemical Society, in "Nanowire film brings cheaper, faster electronics a step closer."
While amorphous silicon and polycrystalline silicon are considered the current state of the art material for making electronic components such as computer chips and LCDs, silicon nanowires, a recent development, are considered even better at carrying an electrical charge, the researchers say. Although a single nanowire is one thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair, it can carry information up to 100 times faster than similar components used in current consumer electronic products, they add.
Scientists have already demonstrated that these tiny wires have the ability to serve as components of highly efficient computer chips and can emit light for brilliant multicolor optical displays. But they have had difficulty until now in applying these nanowires to everyday consumer products, says Charles M. Lieber, professor of chemistry at Harvard.
"By using a 'bottom-up' approach pioneered by our group, which involves assembly of pre-formed nanoscale building blocks into functional devices, we can apply a film of nanowires to glass or plastics long after growth, and do so at room temperature," says Lieber.
Here is a picture of a high-density crossbar nanostructure. This geometry can serve as the basis for many applications, like bio-sensor arrays or high-density data storage (Credit: Nanosys Inc.).
The researchers think that the first applications will be improved smart cards or LCD displays. But they also have a vision.
Within the next decade, consumers could see more exotic applications of this nanotechnology, Lieber says. "One could imagine, for instance, contact lenses with displays and miniature computers on them, so that you can experience a virtual tour of a new city as you walk around wearing them on your eyes, or alternatively harness this power to create a vision system that enables someone who has impaired vision or is blind to 'see'."
Their research paper, "Large-Scale Hierarchical Organization of Nanowire Arrays for Integrated Nanosystems", has been published by Nano Letters 'Vol. 3, No. 9, September 2003). If you're a subscriber, you can find it here.
And for future applications, check regularly this startup company, Nanosys Inc., where Lieber is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board, and is developing nanowire technology and other nanotechnology products.
Source: Mark T. Sampson, American Chemical Society, via EurekAlert!, November 6, 2003
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