A study by researchers from Swansea University has demonstrated that advancements in nanowire structures will pave the way for developing more durable and stable nanotechnology for application in futuristic semiconductor devices.
Dr Alex Lord and Professor Steve Wilks from the Centre for NanoHealth headed the collaborative study reported in the journal Nano Letters. The researchers outlined the boundaries of electrical contact technology to nanowires at atomic levels by using world-class instrumentation and global partnerships that can be employed to design advanced devices based on the nanomaterials. Stable, precise, and predictable electrical contacts are crucial for electrical circuits and electronic devices as they regulate the electric flow essential to ensure the operational potential.
For the first time, the experiments performed by the team showed that atomic modifications of the metal catalyst particle edge can totally modify electrical conduction and most notably it exhibits physical evidence of the impacts of barrier inhomogeneity—an enduring problem for electrical contacts. The research managed to exhibit the physical and electrical boundaries of the materials that will enable nanoengineers to choose the characteristics of producible nanowire devices.
Dr Lord, who was recently appointed as a Senior Sêr Cymru II Fellow part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, stated, “The experiments had a simple premise but were challenging to optimise and allow atomic-scale imaging of the interfaces. However, it was essential to this study and will allow many more materials to be investigated in a similar way.”
“This research now gives us an understanding of these new effects and will allow engineers in the future to reliably produce electrical contacts to these nanomaterials which is essential for the materials to be used in the technologies of tomorrow.”
The new concepts shown here provide interesting possibilities for bridged nanowire devices such as transient electronics and reactive circuit breakers that respond to changes in electrical signals or environmental factors and provide instantaneous reactions to electrical overload.
Dr Alex Lord, Centre for NanoHealth
The researchers adopted a specialized experimental setup at the Centre for NanoHealth and collaborated with Professor Quentin Ramasse from the SuperSTEM Laboratory, Science and Facilities Technology Council and Dr Frances Ross from the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, USA. The researchers were successful in physically interacting with the nanostructures and evaluating the impact of atomic changes in the materials on the electrical performance.
This research shows the importance of global collaboration, particularly in allowing unique instrumentation to be used to obtain fundamental results that allow nanoscience to deliver the next generation of technologies.
Dr Frances Ross, IBM, USA
Nanotechnology involves minimizing the size of everyday materials to a size of the order of a few nanometers (a million times smaller than 1 mm on a standard ruler) and is considered to be the prospect of electronic devices. Advances in engineering and scientific developments have been culminating in innovative technologies—for example, sensors for monitoring the neighboring environment and our health, as well as computer components for smart devices.
Nanotechnology has a crucial impact on the Internet of Things which links everything (from our homes to our cars) into a web of communication. These innovative technologies mandate similar developments in electrical circuits and specifically electrical contacts enabling error-free working of the devices with electricity.