MIT on the way to cracking nanowire production -

As electronic circuitry gets ever smaller, researchers are endeavouring to create workable components at the nanoscale level.

While the development of nanowires could open the doors for a new generation of semiconductor devices, researchers have struggled to produce the tiny conducting strands.

Now, a team at MIT has uncovered a way to grow the quantum-scale microfibers in a lab, in a way that they can closely manipulate the width and height of the strands.

Although it's not possible to see without electron microscopy, the team were able to control size and composition of individual wires by adjusting the amounts of gases used in the ‘growing’ of the wires.

Nanowires are grown by using metal ‘seed’ nanoparticles, the team says, which control the resulting shape of the strands. By changing the amount of gas surrounding the seed particles, they could achieve the shapes and sizes desired.

By doing so with nanowires of various materials, this means that it's possible to grow complex structures for a range of applications.

According to the team, greater control of nanowires could allow for better functionality in thin film semiconductors.

This could mean LED lights with increased efficiency, and vastly better durability, alongside the ability to produce certain light colours on the cheap.  This is a plus with LEDs currently rather pricy.

For solar panels, this could mean fine tuning the wavelengths of light which are responded to, and reducing energy loss due to lack of defects.  Thermoelectric applications were also cited.

The nanowires can be created using commonly used tools in the semi industry, the team says.