Japanese researchers have developed a completely new, and surprisingly simple, technique for making polymer nanowires.

A polystyrene nanowire containing iron oxide nanoparticles.

A polystyrene nanowire containing iron oxide nanoparticles. © Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation

Nanotechnology and the creation of materials like nanowires that measure only a few billionths of a metre, has attracted a lot of attention in the last few years because of its many potential uses. In future, nanowires may be used to link tiny components together, making extremely small electrical circuits within various gadgets.

Polymer nanowires can be made of materials like polystyrene, and have several advantages over nanowires made from inorganic materials. They are extremely flexible and optically transparent, so they could potentially be used in nano-sized sensors, lightemitting devices and optical switches.

They are usually constructed using moulds, but this method only produces comparatively thick nanowires with diameters of around 100 nm. For many practical applications nanowires should ideally be much thinner. Furthermore, the use of strong chemicals to extract the finished nanowires from moulds restricts the materials that can be used to make them.

To tackle these issues a team of scientists at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) have developed a completely new fabrication technique, which is capable of producing super-thin, 10 nanometres (nm) nanowires. The material is simply irradiated with a precisely controlled laser beam, which causes a nanowire to ‘grow’ at the point of irradiation.

Using this method they also discovered that it is possible to introduce new functions to the nanowires by adding other compounds to the starting material. Until now, this was extremely difficult. The new technique is expected to enable the use of nanowires for various applications, including in the wiring of smartphones and other portable electronic devices where miniaturisation is required.

For further information contact:

Dr Masahiro Goto
International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics
National Institute for Materials Science, Japan
Email: goto.Masahiro@nims.go.jp